June 17, 2017
I hope you had a chance to read the latest from my “guest” blogger. Bonnie described our 186-mile journey we took this spring. I am having a blast hiking a second loop around the Buckeye Trail, especially since I’m hiking it with Bonnie.
Though the main focus is on Bonnie’s eventual completion of all 1,400-plus miles of the BT, there’s a second major goal we have in mind as we hike. That is to share with the people we meet the reason that I made my first trip around the BT, to find healing after my brother’s suicide. (That journey is the one chronicled in Hiking without Dave.)
We didn’t get many opportunities this spring to chat with people about our mission, but there is one encounter that sticks in my mind. A waitress in northeastern Ohio had shown us great service and also an interest in our hike. It was on a last minute impulse that I told her about my first hike and handed her one of our postcards listing suicide warning signs after we paid our bill.
She thanked me, scanned it quickly, then looked up. I noticed moisture welling up in her eyes. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. She told us she had recently lost her brother to suicide. The sadness was bad enough, but just as painful, or worse, was the guilt she couldn’t shake. She didn’t have a lot of time, but she wanted to tell us a little about it. Warning: One of the details is rather graphic.
Her sibling was prone to depression, and when it got bad she would offer to make him his favorite dessert—a cherry cobbler—to cheer him up. This time he had called her and asked for one. He wanted the “special,” the one in which she made the crust from scratch. Anything for him.
When she delivered the pie to his apartment, he seemed fine. That struck her as a little odd, but oh well, no big deal. She was just glad he appeared to be better. One feature in the room barely registered in her mind. A panel from the drop ceiling was not completely in its channel. It wasn’t until the next day that she gave it any thought. That was the day he was discovered hanging from that spot.
She went on to say that as the days passed more clues surfaced. She couldn’t understand how she had missed them. That’s when I told her more about my brother’s suicide.
I had missed sign after sign. In fact, Dave had displayed all but a couple of the signs I had chosen to list on our postcard. I told her that by the grace of God I had dealt with the guilt, but occasionally it still rears its ugly head. Like when we talked to her. And now while I’m writing this.
It’s not easy to share my experience. But I hope someone who reads this benefits, if only to realize they are not alone.
I’m glad we served up that card to our waitress. Judging by her heartfelt goodbye, I’m thinking those tears were a good thing after all.