About 32 years ago or more we decided to put our youngest son into a Peer model preschool program at a school not far from our house. Their main population at the school was neurologically impaired students who were not appropriate for the public school. It was a full day program and a great opportunity for our little guy. He was moving forward at a rapid rate and it was hard to keep him up to date and occupied with his learning moving so fast
Through this experience I got to know Barb. She was one of the special education teachers and a lovely person. We would chat from time to time and her children were in the day care which was located down the hall. It was an ideal work situation for young mom’s.
Later on at some point we discovered we were going to the same church and I happened to run into her about the time her dad died. Barb was a woman who wore her emotions on her sleeve so it was easy to see how upset she was so we talked for a long time in the parking lot. I was always very fond of her and got to know the kids more and eventually her husband.
About 25 years ago the church started a program where adults would gather in each others homes and use a structured booklet to guide them through scripture study. The program went on for a year or so but in the end our group had grown and become close so we decided even if the program stopped we would continue to meet which we did for the next 25 years. None of us had grown up locally and for some the group was more like family. We talked about everything in our lives. Barb shared her struggles just like the rest of us. And she was the one always asking the hard questions. That was one of her more enduring traits.
About six or seven years ago tragedy struck their family which could have ended in so many sad ways. Their son who was a lovely young man who I had known since he was about 2. He had become drug addicted and when he could not take it anymore he decided to end his life. He had been through rehab but relapse is so difficult when one believes they are finally on the right road.
That was one of the saddest times I have ever experienced in my life. Not the death of my parents, or good friends had hit me as hard as this. The only other death that felt like this was when my cousin Mary died. And this pain was similar. I loved this family and hated to see them in such pain.
Many families do not survive someone taking their own life. There is blame and shame and all the societal issues one has to face. But Barb was so strong. She talked with other parents who had had similar losses and she read and read about death and what one has to do to stay present and not get bogged down in the past. Her husband was suffering terribly but they hung in there and today they are okay. As okay as one can be after suffering such a loss. It will always bring pain into their life but they have survived which to me is a big deal. I am not sure what I would do in the same situation.
Her daughter put together a program and went to speak to the students in high schools about loss and what to do if you think a friend is in trouble, who to go and what to do to help their friends etc. When I heard what she was doing I asked her if she would come and speak at a school in the county where I worked. Her mom and dad came to hear her speak. It was a great moment for them. I think in someway hearing her talk about their experience was helpful. She was so brave to get up there and talk about the loss and the regrets and how much she missed her brother. It was amazing and she touched so many of the students. I think she reached into her parents souls as well. At her wedding it was so obvious that she had helped them in many ways also. Another strong woman to admire.
Barb and her family are moving on with their lives. Their son will always be in their thoughts and their love for him will not die but they are able to move forward now. I believe Barb lead the way for her family. It has not always been easy but she is one of the bravest women I know.