But How Did They Live?

With the month of September comes Suicide Prevention and Awareness month. And if you, like me, are one of the many touched by suicide, I am so sorry for your loss. It’s a heavy hurt to hold and tends to bring more questions than answers.

It’s easy to get caught up in the how or why they died. The questions can become unrelenting. But would you take a moment with me today to remember and share stories of how they lived? The everyday things they found joy in, the silly quirks they had, their smile, their laugh, the things they did that annoyed the snot out of you…

By remembering how they lived and sharing stories, we both honor and celebrate our loved ones and continue to break the stigma around mental health and suicide. If we want to see the statistics change, we have to be able to talk about it.

With all of that said, do you mind if I share some stories of the ones I love and miss?

Val and I spent every afternoon together from the time I was in preschool until I was in third grade. We rode bikes around town, made silly bumper stickers, sang along to Patsy Cline tapes on road trips to neighboring towns. We attended weekly events at the senior center, helped with community meals at the VFW and so much more. He loved to prank people in his full-body gorilla suit; you never knew when you’d see a gorilla lurking around the local park or even your own backyard.  Every Sunday he came over for dinner and to watch reruns of HeeHaw.

He found joy and purpose in serving his community and taught me to do the same. Every Monday we helped unload the truck at our small town grocery, he would quietly mow lawns for community members and never except a dime. For 60+ years he both served on the volunteer fire department and was the town Santa.

I graduated high school with Mandie and Diamond, and with a class of only 22 people, we shared a lot of life.

I’m filled with memories of dreading track practice, volleyball team dinners, marching band, a rambunctious food fight on our last day, musical productions, proms, sledding at “Watermelon Hill,” running around town and so much more. If you and I were getting coffee together I’d tell you about every shenanigan pulled.

Mandie was goofy and fun, had an overwhelming love for animals, cared deeply for people, was absolutely obsessed with the vanilla bean scent and had probably 5000 body sprays. To this day, she is one of the kindest people I know. Diamond was strong, outgoing and confident with a love for adventure. Nothing held her back, she always stood up for what she believed in and didn’t back down easily. She was the life of every party and made friends everywhere she went.

These stories are just a glimpse into the lives that my friends lived, the lives I wish they were still living. It’s important to talk about how they died and fight for change, but we can’t forget how they lived.

Written by Marta Payne on September 15, 2021.