There was no darkness today at Kensington Metropark. It was a perfect early autumn day, a slight chill in the air mitigated nicely by the noon day sun. We gathered at the East Boat Launch, about 250 of us, munched on donuts and coffee, listened to a live band play, and heard opening remarks from "Spike," a local disc jockey (one known for his rather wild and off color morning show) who talked about his family's experience with suicide.
Out of the Darkness is a fund raising event sponsored by the American Society for Suicide Prevention. There's a double meaning to this title - certainly "out of the darkness" refers to the mental reality of people who choose to take their own life, for there is obviously a bleak darkness to their lives which they feel cannot be adequately overcome.
But an even larger aspect of this event (and this organization) is to relieve the stigma and secrecy associated with suicide, to bring this devastating occurrence "out of the darkness" so people in danger may feel freer to discuss their problems, perhaps preventing them from taking that final step into total darkness. Not only were we raising money to fund suicide prevention programs in high schools and colleges, our walking put a physical presence on this tragedy, put family names and faces to what many people fear to acknowledge.
I was walking with a group of friends and family in honor of Jeff Druchniak, a young man I met in my days of accompanying high school students. A brilliant man, a much loved son and older brother, his loss has cut deeply into the hearts of his parents, his brother, his large extended family, and his teachers and friends.
So we came together on this perfect fall Sunday, the day after his younger brother Brian's wedding, and shared our memories of Jeff as we walked. There was some sadness, certainly, and lots of regret, for that is something no one who survives a loved one's suicide can escape. But there was more laughter than I thought, and lots of discussion about yesterday's college games (which Jeff would have entered into lustily). I think it helped us to be together, and to walk with others of all ages who had lived through the same horrific loss.
I'm glad I was able to be part of this event today...and I thank all those who supported it financially, and with their kind words. I feel as if we all took some steps out of our own darkness today, and started walking toward a more hopeful future.