Monday, September 30, 2013

September Song

My September song began the day I gave birth to my firstborn.
On a beautiful September day, the seventeenth day of the month of September in the year 1967,
 I became a mother.
Forty years later, my wonderful son celebrated his birth by completing a 206 mile bike ride from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The next morning we were photographed in front of a large clock in the condo in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he had rented where we would stay to celebrate his successful ride and birthday.
The clock had this quote in French on its face:
The Time of Your Life.

Ryan & Sally
Mother & Son
September 2007
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
I loved being this boy's mother.
I still love being his mother.  
I grew up the day I gave birth to him.
My life became much fuller and had a greater purpose.
He has always brought joy to my life.
He is a happy man who never fails to make me laugh.
I am quite proud of him.
After him, came four more children.

Before I knew it,
this boy, my firstborn, became a man and on another September day he presented me with his third child and my fifth grandchild.  His namesake, Ryan Bridger, called Bridger,
became another joyful September song to me.
Julie, living in Salt Lake at the time of Bridger's birth came to meet her new nephew.
Julie & Bridger

A few years later, my youngest son presented me with a third September joyful song when he and his wife gave birth to Atticus Roberts.  Atticus became my seventh and last grandchild.
Julie & Atticus

September is one of my favorites months.
There was a time, when I was raising my five children when the trees were heavy with fruit waiting to be harvested and to be preserved.  
September days were filled with making breakfast, lunch,  and dinner,
Picking fruit and canning it,
Picking tomatoes and canning them, and
Caring for five children born in a span of ten years. 
September was a happy, busy time.
Ryan and Jonathan
September 1979
The firstborn with the last born
There was a time in September, when I would walk out onto the back deck of our home and I could smell the fall air rich with the smell of grapes ready to harvested.
The air had cooled, and the first light frost would have set the flavors in the grapes.
Now it was time to make grape juice and grape jelly.
Julie & Sally
harvesting grapes.
The grapes had to heated and crushed to make the wonderful, sweet tasting juice.

Now, September brings me reminders of crushing grief.

September is Suicide Awareness Month.
Today is the last day of that month.
A verse has been added to my September song that I didn't see coming.
I did not want this verse in my song.
This verse tells a story about a chapter in my life that I did not want included.
And, yet, because I have this verse in my song, I must raise my voice and sing, or speak, since I am not much of a singer.

The first night I returned home after my daughter's suicide, I wondered how I would make it.
I no longer understood anything about my life.
My past made no sense.
My future...well, I couldn't even foresee a future because I was trying to make sense of the present. 

"Catastrophic loss is like undergoing a loss of our identity." 
Jerry Sittser said this in his book A Grace Disguised.
I only knew this truth because I was living it in the days after Julie's death.  
It was several months later that I would read this truth and know that I had experienced a 
loss of my identity when I lost my daughter to suicide.
I didn't know who I was.
The script of my life had been altered.
A verse in my song had be thrust in that made every verse before it seem discordant and out of rhythm.

A dear friend, Sandy Decker, one the first ones I called to tell of Julie's death, came to Julie's funeral and gave me a book.
The title spoke to me.
It was a picture book.
I couldn't really read words yet; I was too crushed.
So this book was perfect for me at that time.

I read it the first night I was home from spending a week with my family near the place where Julie had lived.  When I climbed into my bed that night I was
too numb to  fathom how
 I would get up and live the next morning.

In the story that is told by the book, the narrator is walking along the beach of an ocean.
As most of us do at the beach, she begins to look for shells.
She comes across a broken scallop shell, but leaves it search of a perfect shell.
Then, she realizes that this broken shell is like she is with her broken heart.
She realizes that this shell had not been totally crushed by the pounding surf.
She realizes she can learn from brokenness.
She learns she will need
 to remain on the beach,
to live with the pain she is feeling,
to not embrace
a vision of a perfect shell,
but to instead,
to embrace brokenness.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit He saves.
Psalm 34:18

The message of the book spoke to me.
I knew with the Lord's help I could live with my broken heart.

Life was not perfect.
It was never intended to be.
Day by day, I would learn to live as a broken person in a broken world.
I learned I could only do this by grace that was given me by the
Lord who said He would be with me,
the brokenhearted.

He also gave me friends who become my life support.

During the first September after Julie's death,
Team 8:08 was formed to walk in the Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Partnership Walk.
The walk has three purposes:
1) To raise money to raise awareness to prevent suicide,
2) to remember loved ones lost to suicide,
3) to support survivors.

Julie's friends from high school formed the team and asked if we would come and walk with them.
Below are Julie's main five women in her life.
Each one is an awesome woman.
Each one loved Julie and was loved by her:
Sharon, Leana, sister Amy, sister Keicha, and Sheridan.
The Core of Team 808
Sharon, Leana, Amy, Keicha, Sheridan

Thia, Melissa, Trinette, Sharon, Sheridan, Keicha, Joni, Leana

Look at this team.
Each one was brokenhearted because one person took her life.
Each one will never forget Julie,
nor will they ever forget how her final act broke their hearts.
Each one reminds me and helps me remember what an awesome girl and woman my daughter was.
They carry her memory.
They help me remember how many wonderful facets she had.
They help me remember that she filled her life with wonderful friends.
Each one would have been there for her in her greatest need, would have done anything to save her,
if only she would have reached out.
Several were there many times before when her demons would overtake her mind.
One, her sister Amy, probably saved her more times than even I know about.

Team 808
September 2010
This year, Team 808 walked again for Jules.
Again, Leana was the driving force to organize the team.
Thank you, Leana.  I love you.  You are such a dear and loyal friend to us all.
This year, the team included,
myself, my husband Jim, my daughter Amy, Julie's & Amy's father and my former husband, and my niece, Cristy.

Some of us walked while others ran.
Julie's father won a first place medal.
Julie would have been so proud.

Julie's closest cousin, Cristy sent a message written on her balloon.

There were many at the walk that day.
Many names were read in remembrance.
As I looked at the others gathered to remember a loved one, I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of lives who have been touched by suicide.

I reflected on the new verse of my September song,
the verse that talks of loss, remembrance, and broken hearts.
This verse in my song now is sung every September when I am reminded that it is once again
Suicide Prevention Month.

Thankfully, this particular verse does not end in hopelessness.
It ends in hope and healing.

Despite the verse in my song that I did not want included,
there is a refrain that is repeated throughout the song of my life.
The refrain speaks of
and of the faithfulness of God,
who now holds my sweet Julie in His arms
and comforts me with His presence.
He sends me
so many wonderful people,
who have loved and supported me and my family.

This is my September song.
It is a beautiful song because it speaks of love.
A mother's song always begins and ends with love.


  1. September is crammed with what it means to be a mother to you. There are the people you celebrate and those you mourn. I am glad your song has refrains of joy and hope, healing and faith. May it continue to be so.

  2. I don't know how to tell you how beautiful this post is. It speaks from the share and offer hope. I'm glad you've taken your grief and moved to help others and to remember your daughter in this way. Blessings to you.

  3. I don't know how to tell you how beautiful this post is. It speaks from the share and offer hope. I'm glad you've taken your grief and moved to help others and to remember your daughter in this way. Blessings to you.

  4. Oh Sally! Such beautiful words, and pictures, and though I can barely see through my tears, I want to thank you for speaking, sharing, believing in the goodness to come from brokenness.
    I have a hard time believing that, sometimes. Though I know it is true, sometimes it just hurts so much.

    Sending loving cyber hugs until we meet in October.

  5. Thank you for your courage to hope and your courage to share. You inspire me to join in your refrain of joy, hope. healing and the faithfulness of God. God bless you, my friend.

  6. I read this beautiful post with tears in my eyes, Sally, because it speaks so eloquently of the profound changes September has signified in our life -- from life's beginnings to reminders of your devastating loss. But there is a triumph of the spirit here in the celebration of a loving family and circle of friends who don't forget. May the love surrounding you sustain you. I know you'll mourn Julie forever, but it's so good to know that she lives on, in a very real sense, in the loving memory of her family and devoted friends.

  7. You've written such a poignant story of hope and healing, Sally. To remember with love - that is what saves us all from immeasurable loss. Hugs to you and your Family.

  8. This post began in such a happy celebratory way, and then you shared such a sad event, of your grief and then your coming back to embrace life. How good you posted this and also that the walk run is in your daughter's name and raises awareness of suicide.

  9. Oh, Sally, your words break my heart with their grief and fill me with awe and inspiration for your steps ahead. There is so much to say -- a comment isn't the right spot for it. But know that I hold you and all who loved Julie in my heart at this time especially. Sending hugs and love.

  10. Oh Sally your post was poetic and painful, beautifully written and lovingly displays a Mother's love. I am happy that you are surrounded by those that love you and that loved your sweet Julie.
    Blessings, Joanne

  11. This blog post touches me, Sally.
    I wish I could give you a hug.
    My heart aches for your loss, my friend. My heart wants to say more, but the words don't seem to come.
    Know that I care....
    Love you,

  12. Beautiful! My first born is also a September gift. I was struck once again by your journey the past few years...such a difficult road you have traveled. I'm so glad you have reached a place of peace. I'm so looking forward to seeing you again in October.

  13. I read this blog late at night, I love our blog, I feel like you are a sweetheart of a human being..You are reaching out to others who have had this loss in their life...Suicide is not spoken much in this USA and I fear it contributes, your blog really told of the pain and also the love and joy you have with your late daughter Julie, you are brave, and kind and loving, may God continue to give you love and strength each and every day and for all the Septembers you will have each year..You are wonderful...peace to you...

  14. Hi Sally although I do not know you, your post touched me tremendously. It was written so sentitively and lovingly. You are surrounded by wonderful friends and family but more important than that is the love and trust you have in knowing that the Lord will help you threw all the hard times. May God bless you and the work you now do to highlight suicide problem in this world today.

  15. Your post was beautifully written in a poetic manner explaining the beauty of mothers love.

  16. You have written a beautiful September song, filled with all the facets that life, and death, reflect for each of us. I am so sorry for your loss, but I see love and healing come out of your pain and suffering. Blessings to you, dear Sally. Thank you for writing this.

  17. Your September song is beautiful, Sally, so heartfelt and so moving. I'm glad that the refrain is one of joy and hope--may the joys of September continue to bring you comfort and hope. You have surely touched many lives by sharing your story.

  18. You have an amazing ability to express your feelings in words. Your memories are so full of a mother's love. I wish for continued hope and healing for you in the arms of the many who loved Julie.

  19. Although I don't know that pain of losing a child, I do know of the kindness of those who come to share the grief. You have good friends there who come along side of you to help bear the burden for a few miles.

    I am happy for you to have other joyous September moments and beautiful memories.

  20. What a touching ride your September song is. The pride of children who have done so well and given you so much in return, to the aching pain you have gone through losing your daughter. But you have also introduce us to the people who have shared that pain and helped you carry your grief. What a blessing they are. Healing prayers being sent you way.

  21. September obviously is a special month in many ways for you and your family... I'm glad you are keeping Julie alive with your words and actions.

    I love September too ---and it's the month we enjoy traveling more than any other month... Fall is coming, it's cooler, and there's just a nice smell in the air....

    Let's all keep September SPECIAL for many, many reasons.

  22. Indeed..... We lost Ted on his 28 birthday.

  23. Indeed..... We lost Ted on his 28 birthday.

  24. This September Song was so beautiful and evocative of your life, Sally. All the good things and then the thing that no mother should ever have to face, when you lost your beloved Judy. I am so proud of you for how you just kept plodding forward, one day at a time. God bless you.

  25. You begin and end in love and we can ask no more than that we come to this place of seeing all our life events as ways to grow our capacity to love. Even if some events have to break (open) our hearts to do it. Brava.

  26. I'm just catching up with favorite blogs today and was sorry to have missed this post when it first appeared. I of course have no words of wisdom to offer, no advice, but just want to let you know I was touched by what you had to say.

  27. This is such a beautiful post, Sally. It's filled with hope, happiness, shock, grief, healing and mostly... LOVE. I'm sending you love and hugs from across the Pacific.

  28. Dear Sally, thank you for writing this and sharing it with us. You have spanned the arc of life: birth to death.
    Tragedy and joy. Holiness and Wholeness. Peace.

  29. Sally,
    You and Julie have many supporters. Please count me among them. With your superb writing you not only pay her a great tribute, but also remind all of us about the importance of awareness. Thank you for that. Sorry I haven't kept up with my blogs and blog reading. I've finished a novel (Charlie's Angle) which should be launched by next week. It's kept me busy. But now I'm glad to be back.

  30. Sally, your heartfelt post conveys the sting of loss and the triumph of love. I know it has taken a lot of hard work to move forward, and I am inspired by what you and your loved ones have achieved.

  31. Like grieving itself, this post holds both the raw pain and the healing beauty we experience with the loss of a child. Like fall, this post holds both dying and living, and most of all, hope. One of your most powerful posts ever. Until I can hug you in person at the end of this month, sending love over the air.

  32. Love, from your family and friends. You are blessed even in your sorrow.

  33. Such a brave, tender, beautiful post filled with the joys and sorrows of motherhood and family life.


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