Monday, June 23, 2008

The Overnight, chapter 1

Warning: I'll be doing some recaps of the Overnight walk I did this past weekend. There will be very few jokes. There will be higher word counts. Shorter posts with more jokes will be interspersed.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon and the walk didn't start for five hours so after registering at Seattle Center's Center House I was just going to leave for a while, get some dinner, a bucket of coffee. But I noticed a lot of people who seemed connected to the walk were milling about the Mural Amphitheater and wearing beads, like plastic Mardi Gras beads. Awfully festive for a suicide walk, I thought. Turns out everyone is asked to wear beads corresponding to how suicide has been a part of their lives. So if you lost a child to suicide, white beads. A parent? Gold beads. Purple was for people who lost a friend. Red for people who lost a spouse or partner. If you have battled depression personally, you wore green. Everyone got blue also for supporting the cause. I went to the table and accepted a blue strand as well as an orange one, which was the color for people who have lost siblings.

All who registered for the walk had been given white paper bags. These would eventually have candles placed inside them and be placed on the ground where the walk ended. Walkers were asked to personalize them in some way and many people had attached photos or art work. I had my bag but had not decorated it. I didn't know what to say. I went up to the table where we were supposed to drop them off. They had magic markers there so I grabbed one and wrote:

"Rick Moe
8-24-62 - 4-4-07"

And handed it in and walked away. About 100 feet away I remembered something and walked back and had the volunteer dig out the bag. I added "Father" after "Friend". Rick's daughter Sophia was born three months after he died.

Then I went to get some Pad Thai. And insoles for my shoes. And that bucket of coffee.

When I returned to the Seattle Center at around 6:30 that evening I noticed all the teams. Groups of people seated on the lawn together in matching t-shirts that depicted who they were walking for. Pictures pinned to backs, pictures held on sticks, pictures clutched in hands. Pictures of young men, middle-aged women, elderly people, more young men. Lots of young men. I realized that most people on this walk are walking with someone else – friends, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. Me, I’m walking alone. I’m alone. It would have been nice to be with someone for this thing but then again, we all ultimately walk through the experience alone so I might as well walk through this alone.

There were about 1100 walkers in all and all wearing beads so just by looking at people you knew a lot about the most horrible day of their lives. So that lady lost her child. That guy lost a parent. The other fellow battled depression. And everyone wore beads. Suicide and depression is something people kept hidden most of the time but here it was all out in the open. Before the walk started someone got up and spoke. She had lost a son and had done several walks. She said that on her first walk she didn’t talk to anyone, the pain was too great. But in later walks she found that her pain was so great she had to talk to people and her pain was so great she had to hear other people’s stories. She encouraged us all to talk to each other out there.

Soon we were off, leaving Seattle Center and heading south on 2nd toward downtown. An older woman walking next to me asked who I was walking for. “My brother,” I said. I was hesitant to say much more but only for a few seconds and then I told her everything. She was wearing a green t-shirt with a picture of a young man on it. She wore white beads. “Tell me about your son,” I said. She told me about Rob.

“He died when he was 22 years old,” she said. “He would have been 33 next week.” She didn’t say this with sorrow or tears or pride or anything. She said this as a fact. He would have been 33. He never got to be 33.

I’ll stop there. More soon and photos.



Suzanne said...

Thanks for posting this...waiting to hear more.

Heather said...

I don't know what to say. I just want you to keep writing this.

Tina Rowley said...

What Heather said.