2008 Walk in New York

I don't even know where to begin to tell you how amazing the Out of the Darkness walk was this year.  It's still all swirled together in my head, but in a good way.  A REALLY good way.  The young boy, maybe 7, who finished the walk.  I watched him as he finished.  He lay down, spread eagle.  His Mom had tears running down her face.  He was wearing "parent" honor beads.
The old man, he had to be 70, wearing white beads for a child.  He finished.  Before me.
The young man with the broken leg.  Part of the time his team mates pushed him in a wheelchair.  Sometimes he walked on his "crunches" (Jason always called crutches crunches).  They finished... some of them running at the end so the team would finish together.  As the three young people ran by me, I wanted to join them.  Jason and Rick would have run the whole 20 miles.  Had I not been with Caryn, I think I WOULD have run.  The urge was overwhelming. 
The ridiculous line for the ladies room at the Staten Island Ferry rest stop.  Knowing it was too far to the next rest stop to NOT use the restroom.  So, 5 of us announced our entry into the men's room.  They didn't have a line.  Coming out of the men's room, to a bunch of teenaged girls asking if they could do that.  I told them sure, just announce themselves first.  The guys thought it was funny.
Phil and Seth.  I think that's the best part.  Twins who had tried to end their lives.  They're still here, praise all the Higher Powers.    They opened the ceremony with songs.  I felt my sons there.  There is no mistaking the presence of Angels, if you pay attention.  They gifted me with a CD of their music (http://www.aronsontwins.com/index.cfm).  I have listened to "Show Me The Way" non stop since I returned home.  But, they gave me a much better gift.  They gave me a real smile, and a real hug.  I felt surrounded by peace.  Such an amazing gift, one that can't be repaid.
Speaking for all of those people... my speaking debut!  No, I wasn't nervous.  I was speaking for my sons.  (If you make it to the end of this novel I'm writing, my words will be there).  What an incredible honor, to be asked to speak about my sons.  Scanning the crowd and seeing tears.  Remarkable.  I swear my boys and Mr. God did the speaking.  There is no way that I could touch people the way that they said I did.  Yep, it was my boys. 
The seven year old twin holding my hand after we placed beads around the luminaries at the Opening Ceremony.  She was holding on as if she were holding on for dear life.  Her sister was on the other side of her Father, clinging to him.  Unless I misheard, and I don't think I did, their Mother had ended her life just 6 weeks ago.  I sent as much strength to her as I could.... you all know how I believe.  I asked my four Angels, Jason, Rick, my Andy, my Mom, to please help her.  She looked at me with such gratitude.  I was so blessed to be beside her.  How much pain their Mother must have been in, to leave them. 
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, and seeing the Statue of Liberty standing tall.  The skyline was incredible.  Incidentally, they made the bridge longer, and made it all go uphill, at the end of the walk.  (we zig-zagged around, Chelsea, Little Italy, 5th Avenue, Broadway, and wound up where we'd stared, at Cadman Plaza).  I am absolutely certain of it.  Sort of like in Chicago, when they moved the rest stops (we'd walked 10 miles, then turned around and retraced our steps).  I KNOW that bridge wasn't that long when I first crossed it.  Losing Marcia and Steven, my soul sister, my best friend.  Caryn suggesting we wait for them.  I stopped for a moment, and realized that if I didn't keep going I wouldn't finish.  Then wanting to run after that!
People asking me what I was doing.  Asking who Jason and Rick were.  Asking why I was walking.  KNOWING that my voice was being heard.  How amazing is that?
Meeting new people, seeing people I'd seen at the walks before.  Occasionally walking by myself, just me and my thoughts, feeling my boys presence.  Hearing my Mom say, "I'm here too Daughter".  Hearing Andy tell me on that extremely long bridge that used to be shorter that he knew how "disciplined" I was, and that I'd finish.  (He was ALMOST as stubborn as I am, although he called it Marine Discipline).  Hearing him tell me that he was holding me up.  I know he was.
The young girl who, while I was walking by myself, grabbed me, hugged me, and told me I had made her cry in a good way.  The soldier thanking me for speaking out.  He deserves the thanks, for defending my right to speak openly.  Him placing beads to honor our military who have found the pain to stay greater than the pain to go.
The "Arab", "arrow" conversation.  You had to be there.  I haven't laughed that hard in ages.
People laughing at Marcia and me for pointing out clothes and shoes (I really want those shoes!) on 5th Avenue.  And I want the purple outfit, too. 
Geri on the ride back to Jersey.  Next time, I'm making her drive.  It will be easier on my nerves.
Opening innumerable bottles of wine Sunday, Steven graciously trying to find a white I liked.  He did.  Now if I only remembered what it was....  And what was that champagne I'd never had that I loved?  My Marcia conducting the orchestra (again, you had to be there).
The heartbreak of the homeless.  But for the grace of Mr. God go I. 
Starbucks open at 3 in the morning, and busy.  The lines to get into the "hot" clubs.
The "wedding party".  They were all wearing white.  Not very tasteful white.   And I'm pretty sure some of the girls were really guys.  Not being critical-- live and let live!-- but that was..... interesting.  Especially the sequined tutued skirt that didn't cover her {his?} crotch very well.  The shoes were great, though.
Jeremy and Marissa.  I love them so much.  I have to miss their engagement party, but she said that I absolutely could NOT miss the wedding.  It's going to be the event of the year, and I have to have a new dress.  They make me feel like family.  A gift, as I have very little family.  Knowing how much their presence means to my Marcia.
The hugs from Adrienne.  Her volunteering to man a rest stop.  That takes a special friend, and I am honored to have her in my life.  Telling me that since she walked with me, she rarely walks without a rock now.  (Iris Bolton told me to pick up a rock at the beginning of my walks.  She said to pour all of the negativity in my life into it, then throw it as far as I can at the end of my walk.  It works.)
Knowing that a dear friend was with me in spirit, and knowing that it wasn't just words.  I'm really glad I felt an uncontrollable urge to go to Newby's to see Bev on a day that I never go there.   I believe to my toes that we were meant to meet.
Coming home to so many emails from the wonderful piece WJHG did on my sons.  Neysa and Scott, my deepest thanks.  I can promise you that a life was saved.  I know.  I have the mail.
Coming home to more issues at work.  Then, having one of my long time customers come in and ask to speak to me.  He/she has told precisely 2 people.  Me and one other.  He/she wants to leave this Earth quietly.  And I promised not to tell (I'm not revealing his/her identity).  He/she has less than a year to live.  He/she wanted me to know because, "you're the only person who's ever really give a shit in my life".  Suddenly the work issues didn't matter.  I've touched a life.  A blessing beyond compare.
Next year, we're walking in Washington, DC.  Yes, I will be there, and yes, I will be badgering you for money!
If you've made it this far....
Here's what I THINK I said.  I know I changed some words while speaking.  I simply spoke from my soul, the way I believe I should have.
Hi there.  My name is Brenda Adkins. I'm from Panama City Beach, Florida, and I am a Survivor of Suicide. I have buried both of my children, twin sons, and several friends to this illness.

This is my third Overnight Walk. My first was in Chicago, 3 years after my oldest child ended his life. When I first thought about it, it seemed insurmountable. I didn't know how to ask people for money. I didn't know how to walk 20 miles. But I did it anyway. And, by asking, I've raised a little over $16,000. My team, POS/FFOS, has raised more than $75,000.00. Finding the courage to ask people for money to help others not live my lifemare has taught me a lot.

It taught me that suicide, mental illness and mood disorders has had an impact on the life of every single person I've spoken to. Every. Single. One. A physician, a close personal friend, told me that he had attempted suicide. So did a newspaper editor and a news reporter. Why, then, are we so afraid to speak of an illness that can be treated? Why do we want to put it away and hide it, when a person with a mental illness no more "asks for it" than the person with cancer does? Why do we want to pretend that it doesn't exist? I've never been quiet about the way my two children died. I am not ashamed of my sons, their lives, or their deaths. I'm from the South. I have to tell, you, we do NOT talk about mental heath issues, or mood disorders, or suicide, where I come from. It's time to change that. There is a  stigma of perceived weakness attached to mental illness. Well, I've learned that the biggest sign of strength is the willingness to ask for help. It's our job to make people understand that this IS an illness, and it CAN be treated.

I placed a Memorial in my local paper for my sons' birthday one year. A couple of days later, a friend came up to me at work and asked me, "How long are you going to do this?" I was confused, so I asked her, "This what?". She looked at me, this person who had known me and my children for 20 years, and said, "This suicide stuff. When are you going to stop? When will you let it go?".

I will tell you what I told her. I will be quiet on the day that people can ask for help and not be turned away, because they don't have the financial resources for help. I'll be quiet the day that there is parity in mental health care, and I can get help for my aching soul as easily as I can for my aching back. The day that there are no more suicides, I will be quiet. The day that no other parent, aunt, uncle, friend, lover lives my lifemare, I will be quiet. Until then? My sons told me at a very young age that they were going to make a difference in this world. Their voices have been silenced by mental illness and suicide. Mine has not, and will not, be silenced. As long as there is breath in my body, I will fight for those who need help. I will be the listening ear, the shoulder to cry on, the person to yell at, whatever it takes. Because suicide is NOT an option. The world needs all of us. No one else can speak with our voice, say our piece or shine our light. I refuse to let people pass by in the darkness because I wasn't there to show them the way. That is why we're here. To show them the way.

Jason and Rick, this is for you. Run with the wind Little Loves. I love you.
You all mean so much to me.  Thank you for being in my life.  Incidentally, I STRONGLY suggest that you not have your tonsils removed, speak before a lot of people, then walk 20 miles in the same month.)

Maximum respect,
Brenda Adkins, always Red's & Red Man's Mom (their Little Mother!)
 Life isn't the party I'd hoped for, but I'll dance anyway, because my sons believed I would.