Author Archives: UMTR2ME

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The loss of Linkin Park lead singer, Chester Bennington, by suicide

An open letter from UMTR2ME founder, Jimm Greer, in response to the loss of Linkin Park lead singer, Chester Bennington, by suicide:

Being a survivor of a suicide attempt myself, it’s so hard for me each time I hear the heartbreaking news that another person has taken their life by suicide.  It seems to me the reality that people who struggle with mental health challenges, aren’t the only ones who give into suicide, is more evident now than ever.  Suicide affects anyone who has any kind of struggle in their life.

Blink-182 and Linkin Park have been two of my favorite bands and recently they teamed up for a concert series called, Blinkin Park.  How cool is that, right?  Unfortunately, today I learned the sad news that Linkin Park lead singer, Chester Bennington, has taken his own life.  Not only was Bennington a husband and father of six children, he was also a good friend of Chris Cornell, whose 53rd birthday would have been today, had he also not taken his life by suicide.  I know some of the struggles that Bennington battled with, were related to addiction.  But those struggles didn’t define who Bennginton was as a husband, as a father, or as a person.

My reaction today is, “Why would anyone take their own life when there is so much to live for?  We all have good days and we all have bad days.  But no bad day is worth taking your own life.”  I say that would be my reaction today, because when I was 18 and a senior in high school, I also thought my life was so bad that I felt suicide was my only option and found myself hanging from the closet of my locked bedroom.  So, yes, I know how it feels to think there is no hope, that life is just too damn hard to fight through.

But here is something I never knew.  In the midst of all my internal pain and while I was going through one of the darkest and most difficult times in my life, at the exact same time, the pieces of a happy and purposeful life were falling into place.  I just didn’t know it because it wasn’t time for me to know it.

I had no idea at the age of 18, as I hung helplessly gasping for the slightest bit of air, that in just two years I would become a father, and in five, a husband.  Together, Sean, who is 26, and Yvonne, who I’ve been married with for 21 years, have helped me find purpose in my sometimes-difficult life.  They both love me because admittedly, I’m perfectly imperfect.

I also had no idea that I would have a successful life 24 years after my unsuccessful attempt at suicide, and become the founder of UMTR2ME-You Matter To Me, a nonprofit organization that offers hope, support and encouragement to those who struggle with thoughts of suicide.

So, it breaks my heart every time I hear that another life has been taken by suicide because for me, it means another person has given up on the promise of hope that every human being deserves.

It’s an absolute guarantee that life will be difficult.  And at times it may feel that life simply isn’t worth fighting for or living.  I get that some of us feel and believe our lives are truly hopeless.  I was at that exact same place 30 years ago.  But trust me when I tell you, as someone who has literally been at the end of my own rope, there is always HOPE to be found in HOPElessness.

I am writing this letter specifically to anyone who has ever attempted suicide or even thought about taking their own life by suicide.  No matter who you are, please reach out to me before you ever give into the disillusioned idea, that suicide is your only option.  I’d like the opportunity to help you anyway that I can.  Your life is just as important as mine, or anyone else’s, and I’d like to have the chance to personally let you know that, “You Matter To Me!”

~Jimm


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“Th1rteen R3asons Why-Not”


I was recently interviewed by Brian Schlonsky of ABCNews, 10 KGTV-San Diego, about my personal take on the highly controversial Netflix series, “Th1rteen R3asons Why.

The series is a screen adaptation of author Jay Asher’s 2007 fictional novel.  “Th1rteen R3asons Why,” revolves around a high school student, Clay Jensen, and his friend, Hannah Baker, who ultimately takes her own life by suicide after experiencing a series of humiliating and horrific circumstances, at the hands of a circle of high school peers.

Prior to her suicide, Hannah makes thirteen cassette tapes detailing the thirteen circumstances and individuals that ultimately led her to the decision to take her own life.

Why would Brian and ABCNews be interested in my opinion of the series?  I’m guessing it had something to do with the fact when I was eighteen and a senior in high school, I attempted to take my own life by suicide. So, I kind of have an idea what it’s like to be in a place so dark, cold and hopeless that suicide seems like the only option.

I do feel the series contributes to the glamorization of suicide and what I consider to be, “suicide pop culture.”  When I say glamorize, I don’t mean in a pretty or romantic way because I don’t believe Hollywood, news media, or even social media outlets attempt to glamorize suicide in that specific way.

What they do though, is present the possibility of a temporary spotlight during news coverage, or attention on social media, or in this case, a Netflix series, about your decision to take your life by suicide.

Even though I wasn’t a stranger to all the hype, buzz and controversy surrounding the series, I had made the decision early on that I would not watch, “Th1rteen R3asons Why.”  But when I got a call about the ABC interview, I decided to binge watch all thirteen episodes in one night, which kept me up until about 3:30am. After watching the entire series, I was even more convinced it could possibly do more damage than good.

While the Netflix series has the potential to expose parents, teachers, counselors and educational facilitators to the struggles teenagers are faced with in school and social circles; I don’t believe graphic scenes of rape and suicide are needed to open the lines of communication for anyone about the irreversible and permanent results of suicide, and the impact it has on those left behind.  What I would rather have seen, was a series titled, “Thirteen Reason Why Not.”

Given the opportunity, each one of us could easily find way more than just thirteen reasons why we could take our own lives because life isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t fair.  But what we need to do, is focus on all the reasons why we shouldn’t take our own lives.  If you ask me, there’s really only one reason each of us has for choosing life and not suicide.

What’s the reason? It’s a quite simple reason.
Walk away from this article right now and go look in the mirror. That’s the only reason you’ll ever need to never choose suicide because “You will always Matter!”

~Jimm

 

You can watch the full news story on the UMTR2ME YouTube channel or the UMTR2ME facebook page by selecting either link below.
UMTR2ME YouTube channel
UMTR2ME facebook page

 


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“My Tamed Monster”

This is a brief account I was asked to share in an upcoming book.

It highlights how difficult, yet rewarding, it was at times to be the only support my husband had as we struggled with his mental illness and our faith.  

My plan is to pen a more detailed account in a book I hope to write one day titled, “My Tamed Monster.”

Dear DougThank you for inviting us to share our stories for your upcoming book.  I will do my best to squeeze 20 years into a short recap and cover your questions at the same time.

Jimm and I met during my senior year of college when he was working as a security guard at the same mall I was working at during my summer break.  During his shifts, he would come into our store to chat with me and the other girls I worked with.  I had a big crush on him but unfortunately for me, he didn’t even know I existed.

Since our store was going out of business and Jimm was always “hanging around,” we invited him to go out with us to celebrate our last night working together.

After having a blast together we all went back to our cars.  Still wanting to hang out, Jimm invited me to go sit in his car.  When he opened the front door of his car I saw a Bible on the passenger seat.  I was like, “is that yours?”  He later told me how he was going to say, “no it was my Grandmother’s” so I wouldn’t think he was some kind of a religious fanatic or something like that.  But he didn’t and instead he said, “yes it’s mine” and I said “cool!”

He never tried to do anything other than talk with me and even sing a few songs to me into the early morning.  That’s when I knew right then, I was in love and I knew he was “the one.”  Again unfortunately for me, it took him a lot longer to think and feel the same way about me.

That night in June of 94′ a wonderful friendship and relationship was started.  Jimm was quite the romantic man.  Constantly surprising me with flowers, showering me with cards and homemade dinners but most of all he was the first man in my life that really showed he cared for me when he put my needs before his.  He took the time to get to know me, my dreams, my past, my insecurities, everything about me.  It was refreshing.  Jimm was the first Christian man I had ever dated and he really seemed to have a strong hold on who he was and what he stood for.  I admired that quality in him.

As I was on college break during my senior year, I eventually had to go back to school in August, just a couple months after we started dating, but the distance did not hamper our love.  We spent hours on the phone, I took trips back home almost every weekend or he would come up to visit me.

Spring break of 95′ I saw my first red flag there was something different about Jimm. During this break I was at home and called Jimm as I normally would but this time he was unusually different on the phone.  He was very distant, very cold, and he began to say strange things.  He said I was supposedly saying things about his son who he was trying to get visitation with during his divorce.  Even though none of this was true BOOM just like that he broke up with me!  After that call, I was in complete and utter shock – it was like I was talking to a complete stranger, not the wonderful sweet guy who made me feel so special.

I let a day or so pass to see if he would call me and clarify what was really going on but nothing.  A few days later, I went out with my parents for dinner and when I came home everything I had ever given to him was sitting on the back porch.  In my mind, that said it was over….again I was crushed…but I got the nerve to show up at his front door and find out what the heck was really going on.  I just couldn’t figure it out.  I mean if it’s over and he doesn’t want to be with me then fine, but let’s get to the root of this strange and erratic behavior.

Jimm was living in the basement of his parent’s house at the time because he was going through a divorce and was also trying to work out visitation schedules with his 3 year old son.
It was that night he opened up long enough to tell me how he pushes people away when they start to get too close to him.

He also admitted to making up all the things he said I had said about him and his son.  He was simply trying to push me away and just to be done with us.  He had never had a relationship that had lasted longer than a year because he always succeeded in pushing others away.

Well, I thought that was a pretty lame excuse and I wasn’t having any of it.  I knew we were great together and this too shall pass and we could move on.  Being in a relationship didn’t scare me and I wasn’t going to let whatever issues Jimm had with commitment kill a great thing!  After hours of talking he eventually opened his heart again and let me back in.  I remember how wonderful it was that night to just be sitting on his lap and having his arms around me.  It felt so right and I felt whole again.  I knew God had special plans for us.

Whenever Jimm would talk about our relationship with others he’d always say how it was a triangle.  God was at the top and we were at each of the corners and as long as we kept our focus on God, he would guide us and we would grow closer to each other.  We still hold onto that way of thinking even today.

I guess you can say once we got past that surprising little bump he really started to let his walls down and the longer we were together a Jimm that I has never met before began to show more and more.  I suddenly began to see his “moody” side.  If you know me, I’m bubbly, perky and always smiling, so spending time with someone who spent most of his time bouncing between moods was very difficult for me.  It rattled me and it confused me, it made me really uncomfortable.  I began to develop the mindset that it was my sole responsibility to cheer Jimm up.

Being the “good girlfriend,” I would stop by wherever he was working to drop off some candy, a little treat or sometimes I’d go out and buy him things, you know–easy peasey lemon squeeze!  Most times it would usually put a smile on his face, which then made me happy.  I know that if I was a feeling blue or grumpy and someone did something like that for me it certainly would put a bounce back in my step.  Many times I found myself making excuses for his moods.  I’d tell myself the sudden and drastic mood changes had something to do with his job, his divorce and visitation with his son, or the struggle of trying to raise his son and a young single father’s frustrations that can go along with those responsibilities. Often times the excuses were easy to come up with and we just kept moving along.

We were married in November of 96′ and that’s when I found out what they say is true, “you don’t really know someone until you live with them.”

Just inside our first year of marriage things got rocky real quick.  Jimm was jumping from job to job, sometimes more than two or three times in the same year.   His moods were worse and lasting longer. Sometimes they lasted for days on end and the anger; he had this anger that just stewed inside and if something was out of whack he would lose his temper and act out physically on whatever was within reach but never me or anyone else for that matter.

I remember him being in a bad mood one day as he was ironing his work shirts and the wrinkles weren’t releasing the way he felt they should’ve been.  Like the flip of a light switch he got so angry.  He tried to rip the cord out of the iron and then threw it across the room.  I was sitting on the couch, watching tv, and was completely shocked at the rapid escalation of his anger and how it just exploded.  There was another time when his laptop was not doing what he wanted it to do so he began tensing up getting this strange look about him.  I watched as he reared back to put his fist through it.  Knowing what was coming next I yelled STOP!!! and surprisingly, he did.

It’s like when he is in a bad mood he’s a ticking time bomb and when he has a trigger of frustration – WOW! Level 10+ in seconds.   Those kind of reactions were very scary.  Again he NEVER took his anger physically out on me or anyone else, but rather himself or whatever it was that seemed to be frustrating him at the time.  Years later into our marriage he opened up to me and shared how he even gets scared at those reactions and how quickly and seemingly uncontrollable they are.  He doesn’t understand what comes over him and never seem to realize what is happening until he is already in that place of what feels like no return.

It was common practice for me to walk on eggshells in our apt anytime Jimm was around.  He always wanted everything a certain way (OCD – big time), if he found water spots on the sink, labels on products not facing forward or things not in the “proper spot.” – I was spoken to as if I were a 5 year old child and scolded for not having everything – perfect – YUCKO!

Let me clarify also – when I say mod, I also mean SILENCE, which was even worse than his anger.  It seemed so easy for him to shutdown completely and ignore me as if I didn’t exist. The lack of communication really began to create a wedge between us as this would go on for days and weeks until something would eventually break his mood.

I began taking his silent treatment and his moods very personal.  You see when ever we were around other people, it was as if a light switch was flipped and suddenly he was a happy guy, talking, laughing, etc.  Many times I would use this to my advantage and ultimately began to crave the company of others.  If it was just the two of us, alone,  the “monster” would be back.

But most times being around friends and family seemed pull him out of his mood, at least for that moment.  Sometimes and on a rare occasions he’d actually show me affection by giving me a hug and just like that things would be back to “normal,”  at least until the next episode.  Even though these episodes were frequent, most times I could feel them coming on, simply based on his tone of voice or his body language.  And when I saw them coming my stomach would tie up in knots because I knew, “oh gosh, here we go again.”  So much of our first year of marriage was like this.

I found that when Jimm spent money it seemed to help lift his moods and quite spells.  Since I handled all of the finances in our marriage, I didn’t put any freezes on his spending.  I was able to keep paying our monthly debt and keep our heads barely above water.  Jimmy liked to shop and I knew when he was is in a mood if I bought him a treat (remembering back to the dating days – buying him things) this helped – I mean, how can you not be nice to someone who buys you something?  I would make up excuses of why I would buy things for  him. Needless to say I was feeling the financial crunch of our everyday bills getting tighter and harder to pay.

After our first year of marriage we decided to move into a small apartment above my parent’s house because we had a lot of debt we were trying to pay down due to the relentless spending of money plus now we were talking about buying our first house.

I was working long retail hours so Jimm spent a lot of time either alone, shopping and spending ridiculous amounts of money or
taking his friends out and treating them to endless night of drinking.  Needless to say things were only getting worse and our communication came to an almost complete stop.  The distance between us was growing wider and we started growing further apart.

The moods were still there and I was still trying to do everything in my power to make him “happy.”  I was completely miserable and broken inside and I didn’t understand what more could I possibly do?

One day while home from work, I was watching The Oprah Show.  On this particular episode there was a panel of women talking about their battles with depression and mental illness.  They talked about spending money with no consequence, changing jobs all the time, mood swings that would change for no reason at the drop of a hat, OCD tendencies and so much more.  I began seeing many of the same characteristics these women had as being identical to Jimm’s behaviors.  It was also mentioned  how women and men handle depression differently.   Women often get very emotional and cry while men typically express their depression through anger – BINGO.  When Jimm came home that day I was nervous but took a step faith in God and asked him if he would be willing to see a doctor to possibly explore some medical reasons for his behavior.  To my surprise he agreed!

We found a psychiatrist who quickly told us believed Jimm was probably manic depressive with some ADD characteristics.  Actually the diagnosis was a relief, because for Jimm it meant he had things going on inside inside that weren’t typical or normal and there were pills that could fix everything.  At least that’s what we thought and were led to believe.

This began a very frustrating time for both of us.  The pills prescribed to Jim were constantly changing as we were told there are different pills and different doses for different people.
I think for almost a year he had more concoctions and mixtures of pills than we could possibly remember.


This pill was for this, that pill for that and another pill to offset or enhance the effects this pill and that pill.  I believe the  constant inconsistent changes in his medication is what ultimately spun him into the most terrible depression he had ever been through.  He totally shut down like I had never seen before.

I’ll never forget Thanksgiving of 98′ because for the life of me I couldn’t get him out of bed or even to talk.  He lay completely motionless in bed staring out the window.  I remember at one point asking him if we should pray together?  No response.  I was so upset, so afraid and unsure of what to do.   I tried to have some normal conversation with him to get him talking. At one point I had even said, “I bet you could lay there all day?” In a cold empty voice he finally spoke but only to say, “not all day, the rest of my life.”  That sent me into such a hysterically crying spell.  Totally lost at what to do I felt like I was about to lose my best friend and husband forever.  Then praise God, with no emotion whatsoever he looked up at me and simply said, “I need to get to a hospital.”  I sprang so quick and called his psychiatrist and was told to immediately take him to the Paoli hospital emergency room for fear that he may become suicidal.  Once there he was admitted into their psychiatric unit.

During his hospital stay he went through so much testing and so many therapy session with doctors.   Jimm was clinically diagnosed with Bipolar 2 disorder, OCD, ADHD and some other mental illness tendencies.  Even though his first psychiatrist had thought he had depression, this time was different.  He was more educated with what was going on inside of him.   He started asking about his medications and their side effects, he started reading and watching videos about Bipolar, depression, etc.  He made a decision, while under hospital care, that he was going to be more pro-active with his mental illness to study and learn more about it so he could actually be an advocate for himself.  He did give me fair warning that coming home would be different and we needed to work on this together as well as seeking counseling.  I was all for it!  Thank God!  We were on our way.

We immediately began counseling and working together on this.  I cried so much during  our counseling sessions as we talked about the many difficult things that happened with us over the first few years of our marriage.  I learned that even though I didn’t know it at the time, often times I was actually enabling many of the moods and depression.  I wasn’t causing them but contributing to them.  Even though I took his mood swings very personal.  I had to learn and understand that I was not the source or the cause of his moods and depressions.  Much of the time I was the one who was getting the brunt of his moods, his coldness and his silence.  But deep down inside that monster, what I saw on the outside was not the man I had met who made me feel so special.  He truly was such a generous, genuine and honest man.  I wanted to fight for him because that was the Jimm I fell in love with and TOGETHER we would find him again.  I knew he just needed someone willing to support him as he found his way.

As we began a new journey together we decided we were going to fight this and we were going to win.  In counseling we learned when Jimm was going out with friends, drinking or spending money, he was inadvertently trying to “self-medicate” himself.
He was trying to get that quick fix of joy and happiness so he could feel better.  Looking back at those behaviors, we are now more educated.

The biggest lesson we learned in counseling was the need to communicate.  Jimm would talk in our sessions and share how many times even if he was in a bad mood, deep inside he would be thinking to himself, “just ask her how her day was,” ” ask her what she wants to do this weekend,” ” just walk up to her and give her a hug.”  He couldn’t understand why it was so difficult to act out those simple and meaningful thoughts.   In our sessions I learned the Jimm I was seeing on the outside was not the same Jimm who was trying to break free from the inside.  I learned this was nothing he had complete control of.  I learned the he truly didn’t want to be this way and that if we could ride out the tough times in counseling and the changes in medications, then we could be happy once again.  That is exactly what we did then and continue to do today.

Jimm learned to communicate like he never had before and he still does today. When he feels moody but doesn’t know why he gives me a heads up.   Sometimes I look at the situation and suggest possible triggers so we can discuss them.  Sometime I’ll let him be alone and do things on my own or he’ll go out for a drive to get some air or some space from the trigger or situation.  As long as we don’t ignore the situation giving him a little space helps.  Many times I pray for God’s guidance because there is so much emotion that comes from being a part of this support system for Jimm that I also need to rely on God to remind me how to be that strong supporter and not the old enabler.  The life that Jimm and I have now is such a beautiful blessing and such a wonderful gift from God.  I am so proud and honored to be his wife.  In our toughest times we have fought for our relationship because we never doubted God had plans for us.

It wasn’t until the summer of 12′ some of those plans started to reveal themselves. For nearly all his life, Jimm has had a calling on his heart to be in some form of ministry to help others but for one reason or another each time he’s tried in the past to get involved doors have closed on him.

In August of 2012 Jimm realized his calling.  He knew God had given him this specific life journey, his struggles with mental illness, so he could share hope and encouragement to others suffering as well.

Jimm willingly and openly shares without any effort, his suicide attempt in high school, his struggles with undiagnosed mental illnesses as a child at school, at home with his family and friends as well as our struggles as husband and wife.

His life experiences, I feel, are inspirational to those who are struggling.  Why do I feel that way?  Because he has been where many others currently are and he shares with such an honest open heart that he is inspiring even to me, someone who doesn’t suffer from depression or mental illness.  Jimm shares this hope and passion through the non-profit initiative he started called, UMTR2ME – You Matter to Me.

I know our faith in God as well as God himself has kept us together during those darkest times when we oth had thought of giving up.  This journey has been a very difficult one to take but we never gave up, we fought with God’s strength, not ours but his alone to keep us together.  What a blessing this life is!  I thank the Lord I didn’t walk away from Jimm.  Sure there were many times I thought in the back of my mind, “well, if this doesn’t work out I know my purpose in all of this was to be there for Jimm and open a door for him to get the help he needed to enjoy a wonderful life.”  I really thought that was my purpose in our relationship for many years.  But I was so wrong.  I know our purpose TOGETHER is to show that anyone can live well and manage their mental health.  How?  Through support and encouragement.  Sometimes something as simple as being by someone’s side is all it takes.  A simple yet sometimes difficult choice to make

Jimm has not take any medications for nearly 8 years.  He’s  always felt that when he was on the different drugs they would cause him to feel numb and zombie like.  We both knew that was not how life should be lived.  He wanted his emotion back.   He wanted the ability to feel happy when he’s happy and when the moods an depressions rears their ugly heads, we simply buckle up and ride those storms out.

Jimm is still the wonderful, honest and loving, caring and romantic man I fell head over heels in love with nearly 20 years ago and our love is still deeply rooted and we truly are best friends.

It is a wonderful life and one that I would never change a single moment.  We don’ t ever say that Jimm is healed or cured but we do say he and I both advocate to live well and live the best life God created us for.  We are so truly blessed

I will always advocate for the Jimmy I know is inside,
“My Tamed Monster.” ~Yvonne  

                                                                       


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What if…

While in La Jolla California toady, I decide to stop off at my favorite cantina for a bite to eat.  Those who know me well enough know I’m referring to Josés Courtroom on Prospect.  Known for its fine dining, high-end shopping and many art galleries; La Jolla is a small “Jewel by the Sea” where many flock to see and be seen.

As I parked my car I noticed a young girl on the opposite side of the street standing under a palm tree crying. It wasn’t difficult to notice she was visibly upset.  The young girl appeared to be in her early twenties.  She was wearing cut off jean shorts and tank top immersed with tears.  She also had her fair share of tattoos, which I can only imagine told some very interesting stories.

As I crossed the street I couldn’t help but notice two things that troubled me terribly.  I could see that she was crying so hard she cold barely maintain her composure.  The second thing I noticed was not a single person had approached her to ask why she was crying.  As a matter of fact as I walked towards the young girl, I watched person after person and couple after couple walk by her.  No one so much as even looked her way.

As I walked up to the young girl, I touched her shoulder and asked, “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”  With tears streaming down her face she stumbled to tell me she was trying to earn some money so she could get back home to San Francisco by working for Save the Children.   The last few days she had been assigned to La Jolla.  She also told me she only needed to get two signatures a day from people willing to help children in other countries by making a small donations.  Now whether you agree or disagree with that specific organization and what they do, I ask that you put those thoughts aside because that is not was this story is about.

As we talked she began telling me she was upset because people seemed to have no time or money to help less fortunate children but they had plenty of time and money for eating and shopping. I’m not saying I agree with what she was saying because I have no idea why people chose not to stop.  As we talked a little more she told me how earlier she had been talking with a couple and as the wife wanted to sign up and make a donation, her husband said, “This is taking too long, let the next person help the kids.”

This young girl obviously felt a strong connection with the work she was doing and she was taking it very personal when people didn’t have time to listen or offer to help.  I can appreciate that.  I tried my best to get the young girl to calm down and stop crying. I shared with her how I could only imagine canvassing was not an easy job to do.  I tried to get her to realize that whether people donated or not the reason she was doing this type of work was to help those less fortunate children in other countries and not for the benefit of the person who was standing in front of her.  I told her I admired her for choosing a very difficult job and I had no doubt if the kids could she what she was doing for them, them would be happy and very appreciative.  After about 5 minutes or so of talking and simply offering a little compassion the young girl stopped crying and seemed much calmer than when I first approached her.  I was even able to get a smile out her.  Before leaving, I gave her a hug and said, “I’m sorry you’re having such a rough day.”

This story was important for me to share not because of what I did but because of what so many others didn’t do.  What has to happen for a person to reach out to another person in need?  Obviously a young girl crying alone on a street wasn’t enough today.

What if she crying because her car had been stolen?
What if she was crying because she had lost her job?
What if  she was crying because she had been beaten?
What if she was crying because she had been raped?

What if you saw this young girl crying on the street?

~Jimm


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The Story behind the picture…

Rex and Connie Kennemer lost their only child, Todd Kennemer 25, to suicide, after a fierce bout of mental illness.  The Kennemers have dedicated their lives to working within the mental health community and the faith community to reduce stigma and to educate in the arenas of mental health and suicide prevention.

Barb Harris is my dearest friend from church and has been for over a decade.  When we received the dreadful news of Todd’s death, Barb was one of the first friends on the scene.  She spent my first night without Todd on the floor beside the couch where I attempted to block out reality through the numb night hours.  I still remember reaching down to make sure she was still there.  Barb hardly knew Todd but she loved him dearly as only a mother could.  She had passionately prayed for him through the season of his illness. Todd’s gravestone has the imprint of a butterfly alongside a scripture reference, 2 Corinthians 5:17.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”  The butterfly portrays Todd’s freedom from pain and suffering, his metamorphosis into the life he was called to live.

One day a few years ago Barb was in her garden when a butterfly landed on one of her plants.  Moving silently and slowly, Barb gently coaxed it to rest on her finger.  Much to her surprise and delight, the beautiful insect did not resist.  She carried her tiny traveler into the house where she placed it on the strings of her guitar.  It settled instantly as if the instrument were a friendly flower.  Time seemed to stop as Barb quietly grabbed her camera and took this amazing picture.  Immediately she thought of Todd and his guitar:  Alive, beautiful and free.  When she finished this surreal “photo shoot”, the butterfly landed on her finger once more and returned to the garden where it took flight.  She caught her breath as the truth of the verse resonated in her soul:  A new creation…the old is gone, the new is come.

~ Connie


Tell someone today, “You Matter To Me.”

Because you may not have the chance to tell them tomorrow.