Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Original Poem: His Park

Five years later and I still visit Josh - it is part of my regular Saturday routine.  His park is a safe place and this poem expresses why.


His Park

His park
   quiet and still
   full of ears
   listening attentively
   without judgement to my
   sighs, groans, sobs,
   whispers, cries and questions. 

Understanding
welcoming
compassionate mob

Frozen as infants, 
   toddlers.
   teens, 
   adults and
   seniors

From all walks of life
   all nationalities
   all shapes and sizes

Keeping my son company.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Original Poem: The Facade

A couple of years after Josh's death, I took a job at another firm - where no one knew of our tragedy.  I wrote about the struggle of what to say, what not to say in this post.

It is now three years later and while some know, many that I interact with on a regular basis do not.  This poem describes the problem that still exists.

The Facade
by Sue Anderson


Like a false front on a movie set
     is me to someone who does not know.

To those who do,
     they know that Josh's death defines me.

No longer the mom of four beautiful children,
     I am the mom whose youngest took his life.

Unspeakably tragic, this sacred and fragile truth
     can only be told to the trustworthy,

of whom I know many,
     but the dilemma becomes one of timing.

When?
How?

There are no good answers
     so I remain silent,

which means those who think they know me,
     really know nothing at all. 





Thursday, March 27, 2014

Poem: To The Young Who Want To Die by Gwendolyn Brooks

I received this poem from a fellow mom who lost her son to suicide exactly one month before Josh and knew I had to share on the blog.

I want every teen who is in that dark place to read it.

I wish Josh's could've read it that fateful night.



To the Young Who Want to Die
by Gwendolyn Brooks

Sit down.  Inhale.  Exhale. 
The gun will wait.  The lake will wait.
The tall gall in the small seductive vial
will wait will wait:
will wait a week: will wait through April.
You do not have to die this certain day.
Death will abide, will pamper your postponement.
I assure you death will wait.  Death has
a lot of time.  Death can
attend to you tomorrow.  Or next week.  Death is
just down the street; is most obliging neighbor;
can meet you any moment.

You need not die today.
Stay here - through pout or pain or peskiness.
Stay here.  See what the news is going to be tomorrow. 

Graves grow no green that you can use.
Remember, green's your color.  You are Spring. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

5th Annual Running to Remember Josh on March 15, 2014

This year's 5th Annual Running to Remember Josh was a blast!  We are so grateful for all our friends and family who came from 10 states (DC, VA, MD, MA, CT, NY, GA, TN, TX and  CO) to run and support our crucial mission - the prevention of teenage suicide.

Thanks to ALL our donors, we have blown out our $30,000 goal with over $44,000 raised!!

Flags made by friends in Georgia - luckily Rox was able to bring them on the plane with her!


We know you were with us in spirit!


Loading up on carbs the night before….


Donna Sanson, Karin and Luca (family friends) ran in memory of her Timmy...


Runners and supporters on Constitution Ave in the heart of Washington DC at the start


Mile 6 - up the hill…Gillian and friends looking good!


Tyler, Lauren and friends looking good too….


Donna at the finish….Timmy was with you every step of the way.


Gillian and friends excited at the finish! 


Tyler, Lauren and posse at the finish….




Tailgate afterwards…..carb re-load


Well done runners!!!


All for our beloved Josh - we love and miss you….


Dedicated to saving other young lives...


RIP JOSH
January 16, 1992 - March 18, 2009




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March 18, 2013 - 5 Years Later: Song - "Slipped Away"

I don't know how to start this post - has it really been 5 years since Josh decided to leave us?   On the one hand, it seems like a long time ago, perhaps even longer than half a decade; on the other, it feels like yesterday.

It was a busy weekend with so many of our family and friends in town to run and support the 5th Annual Running to Remember Josh (big annual half marathon fundraiser) - a nice distraction as time moved us closer to the date of our family's personal tsunami.

This song resonates with me today; I listened to it while visiting Josh.  Click here to listen.

Slipped Away
by Avril Lavigne

I miss you, miss you so bad
 I don't forget you, oh it's so sad
I hope you can hear me
I remember it clearly

The day you slipped away
Was the day I found it won't be the same

I didn't get around to kiss you
Goodbye on the hand
I wish that I could see you again
I know that I can't

Oh I hope you can hear me
'cause I remember it clearly
The day you slipped away
Was the day I found it won't be the same

I had my wake up
Won't you wake up
I keep asking why
And I can't take it
It wasn't fake
It happened, you passed by

Now you are gone
Now you are gone
There you go
There you go
Somewhere I can't bring you back

Now you are gone
Now you are gone
There you go
There you go
Somewhere you're not coming back

The day you slipped you away
Was the day I found it won't be the same
The day you slipped away
Was the day that I found it won't be the same

I miss you

My faithful friend Rox was in town for the fundraiser and had a chance to visit Josh on Friday.  She brought roses, some thoughtful items for his tree and lots of pictures.  I went today - you will see the drastic change in weather.  Luckily the snow came on Sunday - after everyone had left. 




















RIP Josh.  We love and miss you more than ever.

Mom

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

4 Years and 11 Months Later - Poem: Grief by C.K. Williams

The tragic deaths of two high school boys two weeks ago have brought back memories of our own loss which occurred almost five years ago.  Can it be that long already?  In some ways, it does feel like a lifetime ago but at other times, it feels like yesterday.

During that difficult week, while thinking about the two boys and our son, I turned to poetry - specifically, an anthology edited by Kevin Young called The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing.

These are excerpts from Grief by C.K. Williams.  Although it is about the poet's grief over his mother's death, there is much about the feeling of grief in the first few terrible days that is universal.

Is this grief?  Tears took me, then ceases; the wish to die, too, may have fled through me,
but not more than with any moment's despair, the old, surging wish to be freed, finished.
I feel pain, ….even pain for myself, my incomprehension, my fear of stories never begun now, never ending.

But still, is this grief: waking too early, tiring too quickly, distracted, impatient, abrupt,
but still waking, still thinking and working; is this what grief is, is this pain enough?
I go to the mirror: someone who might once have felt something merely regards me,
eyes telling nothing, mouth saying nothing, nothing reflected but the things of the world,
nothing told not of any week's, no, already ten days now, any ten days' normal doings.

Shouldn't the face evidence anguish, shouldn't its loving sadness and loss be revealed?
Ineffable, vague, elusive, uncertain, distracted: shouldn't grief have a form of its own,
and shouldn't mind know past its moment of vague, uncertain distraction and sureness of sorrow;
shouldn't soul flinch as we're taught proper souls are supposed to, in reverence and fear?
Shouldn't grief be pure and complete, reshaping the world in itself, in grief for itself?

My face beneath your face, face of grief, countenance of loss, of fear, of irrevocable extinction;
matrix laid upon matrix, mystery on mystery, guise upon guise, semblance, effigy, likeness.
Oh; to put the face of grief on in the morning; the tinting, smoothing, shining and shaping;
and at the end of the day, to remove it, detach it, emerge from the sorrowful mask.

Stripped now of its raiment, the mouth, caught in its last labored breath, finds last resolution;
all the flesh now, stripped of its guises, moves towards its placed in the peace of the earth.
Grief for the earth, accepting the grief of the flesh and the grief of our grieving forever;
grief for the flesh and the body and face, for the eyes that can see only into the world,
and the mind that can only think and feel what the world gives it to think and feel;
grief for the mind gone, the flesh gone, the imperfect pain that must stay for its moment;
and grief for the moment, its partial beauties, its imperfect affections, all severed, all torn.

RIP Josh.  I envision you have found these boys and are showing them the ropes in the world you now inhabit.  One day - we will be together again.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

RIP Timmy

A couple of weeks ago, I found an article on Facebook, printed it out for myself and made a mental note to post on the blog.

After the very sad events of this week, it is a perfect time to share.  Our community is reeling over two suicide deaths at Langley HS where both Lauren and Josh went to school.  We know one of the families as Timmy's older brother Peter, was a good friend of Josh's and came to our home over 4 years ago to console us.  And now, tragically, we are returning the favor.

When Josh died, the friends of Tyler, Lauren and Gillian came from all over to be with them.  Peter's friends are doing the same for him.  And they are the same boys that came to our home in March 09 so it has been like deja vu for all of us.

Two of his friends joined me in my weekly visit to Josh's park yesterday.  One asked, "what can I do to help Peter?  It is hard to know what to do and what to say."  I just shared what helped us and what it comes down to is very simple - just being there….through thick and thin and over the long haul….just as they have done for us and I know they will do for their suffering friend.

While writing this morning, I came across the article within the pages of my journal and have cut and pasted in it's entirety below as I could never do proper justice by paraphrasing.

Please read and pass along to others - those who have suffered unbearable loss/trauma and those who seek to help them.

A New Normal:  Ten Things I've Learned About Trauma by Catherine Woodiwiss.


I wasn’t really expecting painful things to happen to me.

I knew that pain was a part of life, but — thanks in part to a peculiar blend of “God-has-a-plan” Southern roots, a suburban “Midwestern nice” upbringing, and a higher education in New England stoicism — I managed to skate by for quite some time without having to experience it.

After a handful of traumas in the last five years, things look different now. Trauma upends everything we took for granted, including things we didn’t know we took for granted. And many of these realities I wish I’d known when I first encountered them. So, while the work of life and healing continues, here are ten things I’ve learned about trauma along the way:

1. Trauma permanently changes us.

This is the big, scary truth about trauma: there is no such thing as “getting over it.” The five stages of grief model marks universal stages in learning to accept loss, but the reality is in fact much bigger: a major life disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no “back to the old me.” You are different now, full stop.

This is not a wholly negative thing. Healing from trauma can also mean finding new strength and joy. The goal of healing is not a papering-over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal. It is to acknowledge and wear your new life — warts, wisdom, and all — with courage.

2.  Presence is always better than distance.

There is a curious illusion that in times of crisis people “need space.” I don’t know where this assumption originated, but in my experience it is almost always false. Trauma is a disfiguring, lonely time even when surrounded in love; to suffer through trauma alone is unbearable. Do not assume others are reaching out, showing up, or covering all the bases.

It is a much lighter burden to say, “Thanks for your love, but please go away,” than to say, “I was hurting and no one cared for me.” If someone says they need space, respect that. Otherwise, err on the side of presence.

3.  Healing is seasonal, not linear.

It is true that healing happens with time. But in the recovery wilderness, emotional healing looks less like a line and more like a wobbly figure-8. It’s perfectly common to get stuck in one stage for months, only to jump to another end entirely … only to find yourself back in the same old mud again next year.

Recovery lasts a long, long time. Expect seasons.

4.  Surviving trauma takes “firefighters” and “builders.” Very few people are both.

This is a tough one. In times of crisis, we want our family, partner, or dearest friends to be everything for us. But surviving trauma requires at least two types of people: the crisis team — those friends who can drop everything and jump into the fray by your side, and the reconstruction crew — those whose calm, steady care will help nudge you out the door into regaining your footing in the world. In my experience, it is extremely rare for any individual to be both a firefighter and a builder. This is one reason why trauma is a lonely experience. Even if you share suffering with others, no one else will be able to fully walk the road with you the whole way.

A hard lesson of trauma is learning to forgive and love your partner, best friend, or family even when they fail at one of these roles. Conversely, one of the deepest joys is finding both kinds of companions beside you on the journey.

5.  Grieving is social, and so is healing.

For as private a pain as trauma is, for all the healing that time and self-work will bring, we are wired for contact. Just as relationships can hurt us most deeply, it is only through relationship that we can be most fully healed.

It’s not easy to know what this looks like — can I trust casual acquaintances with my hurt? If my family is the source of trauma, can they also be the source of healing? How long until this friend walks away? Does communal prayer help or trivialize?

Seeking out shelter in one another requires tremendous courage, but it is a matter of life or paralysis. One way to start is to practice giving shelter to others.

6.  Do not offer platitudes or comparisons. Do not, do not, do not.

“I’m so sorry you lost your son, we lost our dog last year … ” “At least it’s not as bad as … ” “You’ll be stronger when this is over.” “God works in all things for good!”

When a loved one is suffering, we want to comfort them. We offer assurances like the ones above when we don’t know what else to say. But from the inside, these often sting as clueless, careless, or just plain false.

Trauma is terrible. What we need in the aftermath is a friend who can swallow her own discomfort and fear, sit beside us, and just let it be terrible for a while.

7.  Allow those suffering to tell their own stories.

Of course, someone who has suffered trauma may say, “This made me stronger,” or “I’m lucky it’s only (x) and not (z).” That is their prerogative. There is an enormous gulf between having someone else thrust his unsolicited or misapplied silver linings onto you, and discovering hope for one’s self. The story may ultimately sound very much like “God works in all things for good,” but there will be a galaxy of disfigurement and longing and disorientation in that confession. Give the person struggling through trauma the dignity of discovering and owning for himself where, and if, hope endures.

8.  Love shows up in unexpected ways.

This is a mystifying pattern after trauma, particularly for those in broad community: some near-strangers reach out, some close friends fumble to express care. It’s natural for us to weight expressions of love differently: a Hallmark card, while unsatisfying if received from a dear friend, can be deeply touching coming from an old acquaintance.

Ultimately every gesture of love, regardless of the sender, becomes a step along the way to healing. If there are beatitudes for trauma, I’d say the first is, “Blessed are those who give love to anyone in times of hurt, regardless of how recently they’ve talked or awkwardly reconnected or visited cross-country or ignored each other on the metro.” It may not look like what you’d request or expect, but there will be days when surprise love will be the sweetest.

9.  Whatever doesn’t kill you …

In 2011, after a publically humiliating year, comedian Conan O’Brien gave students at Dartmouth College the following warning:

"Nietzsche famously said, 'Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.' … What he failed to stress is that it almost kills you.”
Odd things show up after a serious loss and creep into every corner of life: insatiable anxiety in places that used to bring you joy, detachment or frustration towards your closest companions, a deep distrust of love or presence or vulnerability.

There will be days when you feel like a quivering, cowardly shell of yourself, when despair yawns as a terrible chasm, when fear paralyzes any chance for pleasure. This is just a fight that has to be won, over and over and over again.

10.  … Doesn’t kill you.

Living through trauma may teach you resilience. It may help sustain you and others in times of crisis down the road. It may prompt humility. It may make for deeper seasons of joy. It may even make you stronger.

It also may not.

In the end, the hope of life after trauma is simply that you have life after trauma. The days, in their weird and varied richness, go on. So will you.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

January 18, 2014 - 4 Years and 10 Months - Afterlife?

A lot happens in a short time frame: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Josh's birthday and another month anniversary that now brings us ever closer to the 5th year anniversary on March 18th.   In years past, these months were very hard as each holiday was a blistering reminder of our loss.

But this year, instead of feeling constant grief with the occasional respite, I felt more at peace with the occasional grief flare-up.  Maybe it is because of some new thoughts regarding the afterlife, the reality of heaven, and the idea that Josh's spirit is very much alive.

Last month, while in Dulles airport waiting to board a flight, I wandered into a bookstore and came across the book, My Son and The Afterlife by Elisa Medhus, MD.  After reading the blurb on the back cover below, I had the strong feeling that Josh led me to it.  So not only did I get the book, but devoured it within a couple of days.
Dr. Elisa Medhus never believed in life after death.  As an accomplished physician, she placed her faith in science.  All of that changed after her son Erik took his own life and then reached out from the other side. 
Intimate, heartbreaking, and illuminating, go on an incredible journey from grief and skepticism to healing and belief.  Based on Medhus' wildly popular blog, ChannelingErikMy Son and the Afterlife provides answers to the most universal questions of being human. 
At once tragic and uplifting, Erik speaks from the other side with candor, wisdom, and depth as he describes his own experiences and provides new answers about the nature of souls, death, and the afterlife - answers that have the potential to change our lives forever.
Erik died on October 6, 2009 - almost 7 months after Josh.  Have they met?  I wonder.

The book is essentially a transcript of her questions and his answers (via medium).  It is information overload: strange, surreal, and difficult to process.   The following bullet points are what I wrote in my book journal:
  • Afterlife is a reality
  • Our two-dimensional (space and time) are a very small part of the overall reality
  • Souls depart the physical body upon death but retain their essence, memories, everything that makes them unique.
  • Souls want to remain connected to their loved ones on earth and are able to give signs, play pranks, show themselves and communicate - click here to read about our signs from Josh.
  • Reincarnation exists
  • Unconditional love for ourselves and others is the ultimate goal of being human
  • This energy, life-force, soul, spirit exists in all living things: humans, plants, animals
Along with Dr. Eban Alexander's book, Proof of Heaven that I read last summer, there is much to ponder.

Then last weekend, when Tim and I went to see Savings Mr. Banks, we saw the preview of Heaven is for Realbased on a true story in which a young boy experienced heaven in a NDE (near death experience) - see their web site for a video interview with Colton and his parents.   It is amazing.

As I process this information, I find the bitterness and anger lessening, being replaced with nascent...unusual feelings of hope and peace.  I feel more assurance that Josh is in a better place and is hopefully doing just fine.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Happy 22nd Birthday Josh

Josh would be twenty-two today.  I spent some time over the weekend thinking about 22 things that I remember and miss most since he's been gone.   Some made me smile, other memories brought tears.

Written to him in my weekly letter:

Josh,
In honor of your upcoming birthday, here are the 22 things that I remember and miss about you…

  1. your smirk
  2. your well-timed, funny, zingy comments
  3. the sound of your slippered feet shuffling on the floor
  4. your deep, manly voice
  5. waking you up in the morning for the 1st time
  6. …and 2nd time
  7. …and 3rd & 4th time (it was actually very annoying but I miss it now)
  8. your humming while in the shower
  9. how you looked over my shoulder while I was preparing dinner…sniffing and commenting on how good it smelled
  10. how you liked to eat grilled cheese sandwiches with salsa
  11. your go-to after school snack - 2 packages of ramen
  12. my weekly washing of your nasty football practice uniform
  13. my washing of your game day uniform by which I could tell what happened (where you fell on the ground, etc)
  14. teaching you how to drive
  15. going shopping together for clothes, shoes, sports gear
  16. how if I took you to the grocery store, all sorts of miscellaneous, random items would end up in the shopping cart
  17. you sleeping on the couch with Buddy and Benji
  18. you sleeping on car rides, listening to your iPod
  19. watching Patriots games together
  20. the marathon watching of 24 we did one summer
  21. chilling in the pool
  22. and even your reprimands of "chill out mom!"
RIP.
Love,
Mom





Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

Hard to believe it is our 5th Christmas sans Josh.  All the boxes of Christmas decorations stay in the basement - I only have the motivation/energy to put up a tree and wreaths on the front door.

The 5th year of our white Christmas tree - in memory of Josh




I found this ornament while organizing my closet a couple of months ago and put it next to his initials….right in the front of the tree




RIP Josh.  We love and miss you.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

4 Years and 9 Months Later - Dec. 18, 2013: Song "Into The West"

I am still in the habit of visiting Josh every Saturday - last weekend, I put up his wreath and hung up some ornaments on the tree near his final resting place.  A new part of my weekly ritual is listening to a beautiful song called "Into the West" by Annie Lennox.  It is featured in the third Lord of the Rings movie, Return of the King.

It was sent to me by Gillian shortly after Josh died but for some reason, I was not ready to listen to it until a couple of months ago and now it is what I listen to while clearing his stone and getting ready to write my weekly letter.  


"Into The West"
by Fran Walsh, Howard Shore and Annie Lennox

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You’ve come to journey's end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore

Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping

[Chorus]
What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time
Don't say: «We have come now to the end»
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again

And you'll be here in my arms
Just sleeping

[Chorus]

And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West


RIP Josh - we will be together again one day. 

Love,
Mom

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 - Original Poem: His Eyes

Our 5th Thanksgiving sans Josh.  It was a quiet one with just our immediate family.  I guess you can say that we are getting used to his absence - in the past, especially the first couple of Thanksgivings, Josh's death filled the house.  There was no getting around "it", ignoring or denying "it" - you just had to endure.

In quiet moments, it is still very sad.  Like when contemplating what to write on this post or when writing some lines of poetry at Starbucks.  I wonder what the young, chatty girls with their pumpkin lattes think when their glances fall on a middle-aged woman, sitting alone, wiping her eyes with a tissue. 

Over the last couple of days, I worked on a short poem about this particular picture, taken by Gillian at their brother's college graduation in 2007, less than two years from his death. 



His Eyes
by Sue Anderson

His eyes twinkle in two-dimensional form,
with a merry thought or private joke
or just plain teenage silliness.

Pictures capture a person's soul,
said my friend 
after my son died.

Which explains the photos
all over my house.

Monday, November 18, 2013

4 Years and 8 Months Later - Bar Fundraiser for JAF

Last Thursday, at our 2nd Annual Fall Bar Fundraiser, where many came to provide financial support for the Josh Anderson Foundation, I experienced dichotomous emotions - like oil and water in the same container but maintaining their own separate space, was joy and sorrow, bitter and sweet.

Joy at seeing the tremendous number of friends and colleagues whose generous donations allowed us to exceed our $10,000 goal by almost 50%.  Emails and letters of those who could not attend as well as conversations at the event underscores the support for our crucial mission - to provide teenagers with the mental health education, resources and support so that they will never turn to suicide.

This article, Giving Teens Strength to Keep On Living, published in our local community paper the  day before the fundraiser, exemplifies what the money is being used for.

Sadness, of course, as to why we were there - a reminder of our personal tragedy.  But the next night is when the grief really bubbled over.  I was home alone, walking around our silent house, looking at the myriad of pictures chronicling the growth of our big family, each photo bringing back memories of vacations, sporting events, weddings, and holidays - all the precious moments that us moms treasure, and it hit me once again, as if it happened last month and not over 4 years ago, that our Josh is gone.

Being alone, through tears, I started talking to him.  "Why did you do it Josh?  Why did you do something that we cannot fix or change?  Why did you do something so permanent?  Why didn't you say anything?  Why didn't you tell me?  I would gladly trade places with you if that would mean you could be here…..I would've taken all your pain upon myself if that would keep you alive.  If someone in our family had to die, I wish it were me, not you."

In my mind's eye, he is equally sad and remorseful in response, "I'm sorry mom - I didn't know what I was doing.  I wish I could take it back and come home."

For us, it is too late.  But hopefully not for other kids and their families.

Getting ready to sell drink and raffle tickets


Josh's picture and the JAF banner


What makes this event special is the support by young adults…..


…..and not so young adults


Tim showing a supporter the big screen TV which was showing pictures of Josh and JAF events


Two moms of Josh's friends manning the table


Our new JAF T-shirts


Friday, October 18, 2013

4 Years and 7 Months Later - Out Of Darkness Walk in DC

On September 28, 2013, Gillian and two friends participated in American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's (AFSP) Out of Darkness Community Walk in Washington DC.  There were close to 2,000 participants and over $100,000 was raised. 











.......RIP Josh......