Vic’s Speech, Walk to Wake the Silence
May 4th, 2019
Walk to Wake the Silence
Nov. 18th 2005 to most is just a date that holds no particular meaning, but to a lot of us here today it's one of those days we'll never forget. The events of that day etch into our minds for eternity. That frosty Friday morning started out for me like most work days back then working with my son Paul. We were putting an addition on a home in Kingsbury. I was stripping old cedar shingles off the house wall so we could attach the new addition hoping the sun would get a little higher so my hands would start to warmup. Paul’s phone rang and although I could only hear one side of the conversation I knew immediately something terrible had happened. That single phone call would change my life forever.
My wife, Cheryl was living in southern Maine at the time taking care an elderly aunt that was dying and she had already heard the phone call that changed her life forever. Paul’s call was to let me know what she already knew that her youngest son Joe had taken his own life the night before. I had to go to Southern Maine immediately. Having done this drive a year earlier after getting a similar call that my mother had died in a car accident,
I had some idea of how difficult the three-hour drive would be. It's difficult to drive when your emotions are out of control and tears are running down your face. Thoughts of Cheryl dealing with this without me, memories of the past seven years since Joe had come into my life are all playing in my head like a horrific movie. I keep trying to turn it off so I can concentrate on driving but it wouldn’t stop, it just kept playing different scenes.
My biggest concern was to get to Cheryl and do what I could to help her through this. Cheryl's children were and are her whole life and on that drive I could picture what she was going through. I watched my mother go through the sudden loss of my dad when I was a kid and those memories were also playing in this movie as I drove. Once I got to her, I realized that I can't make it better, all I can do is be there for her. After the world wind events of the next few days I tried to come home to help my son Paul, who was now working alone, as we needed to finish the addition before the onset of winter, but each time I'd get home a phone call would come telling me Cheryl was having an understandably difficult time and that I needed to be there. In the early spring Cheryl's aunt passed away and she was finally able to come home.
I don't know if being a step parent rather than a biological parent made suppressing my own grief to a later date easier to denote more time to Cheryl’s needs or not. I just knew if I didn't keep it together she probably wasn't going to survive. That first year whenever I did leave her alone I always would have that feeling that when I came home she might not be alive. It's a horrible way to live and the reason a lot of relationships fail.
I found my redemption in nature and was eventually able to get Cheryl out for small walks in the yard so she could hear the birds sing and feel the healing powers of nature. It must have worked as we are both here today.
After the first year I started to believe she was going to make it. I started to relax a little and that's when grief hit me like a ton of bricks. All those suppressed feelings came pouring out. The feelings of guilt and regret for what could have been. I believe I experienced every feeling an actual parent as at a time like this.
Thank you all for being here today to support the JD Foundation and the work we do. Maybe by us all working together, learning the warning signs, and other tools, we can prevent another family from having a Nov.18th.