"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Sister Club

I used to belong to a very exclusive club. There were only three members, plus one honorary member. It was called The Sister Club, founded many years ago without fanfare and with much giggling and laughter by me and my two sisters. My stepdad, Jim, was invited to join several years ago, the first, and only male member allowed. There weren't any rules, bylaws or even regular meeting times for our club.  Really it only existed for the sole purpose of enjoying each other and laughing together as much as possible.  

On May 29, 2010, without any notice, and definitely without agreement from all three members, the club abruptly ceased to exist. I really miss my sister club, more than words can ever express. Sometimes I go through old pictures, looking especially long and hard at those showing the three of us, The Sister Club, in action. This is the first picture taken of us, the day newborn Julie came home from the hospital to join our family. It's faded and blurry and I'm only partially visible in the left edge of the picture. Still, it's hard for me not to be struck by the image of Amy and I looking down on our baby sister, completely enthralled, ready to love and protect her always. 
There's another, very similar image of the three of us that exists only in my mind. In it, Amy and I are again gazing down at our younger sister, loving her, taking in her every feature -her beautiful curls, her slender, graceful hands and her face - trying to imprint them in our minds forever. Except, instead of being cradled in our mom's arms, Julie is in her casket, and we have only a few minutes left with her. The memory of those last few moments with just the three of us is the most excruciatingly tender, yet painful memory of my life. Neither one of us could bear to say goodbye. We were both dumbfounded and numb as we stood there, playing out a scene that can only be described as a nightmare. When our time was up and we couldn't keep people waiting any longer, we left the room together quickly without looking back, not wanting to witness the finality of her casket being closed. Even now, I'm not sure how we both didn't die right then and there from our broken hearts.

Not long ago, someone said to me that they admired the work I'm doing for suicide awareness and prevention education. My answer was that I don't see my advocacy work as a choice. I feel compelled to do it. How can I not? My sister Julie is gone forever. Our sister club is just one of the thousands of things that was destroyed in the wake of her suicide. If I can save just one life, prevent even one death, allow even a single family to keep their sister or other family member, that's enough for me. Every time I get tired, or sad, or resentful about my loss, I conjure up that last image of us in my mind. That's why I do what I do. That's why I'll never be quiet about preventing suicide, why I'm a broken record, why I'm willing to make others uncomfortable by talking about a subject that is still taboo to so many. I couldn't save my sister's life, but I am determined, focused with a purpose and intensity I don't have for anything else, to make sure her death wasn't in vain. I will tell her story, and my story, as often as I have to in order to bring the spotlight on suicide prevention.

This week, September 4 -11 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Please join me this week in supporting suicide prevention efforts across the country.  For details on how to support suicide prevention efforts, click here https://afsp.org/


  1. I always read your posts, even though I know they are going to make me cry. You touch me so deeply with your love and determination to save lives, prevent what happened to Julie from happening to another family. It's because of your dedication that I know what you want to prevent WILL be prevented. But you'll never know about it, because it didn't happen. I acknowledge your gift of prevention. Thank you.

  2. Yeah, what DJan said. Press on, you beautiful young woman.


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