October 17 — Julie Robinson kept a century-old poem folded in her wallet on Saturday morning as she walked the grounds of Baker Park.
“Death is nothing at all,” he begins. “It does not count.”
The verse in Robinson’s hand had been slightly altered from its original form. His uncle made the changes in 2019, following the suicide of Robinson’s brother Gary.
Gary was an avid hiker, Robinson said, and a lover of all things the outdoors. For reading at his funeral, the family edited a few words in the poem to reflect this.
“Why should we be out of mind because we are out of sight?” »The penultimate stanza reads. “We’re just waiting for you, right at the next bend in the trail.”
It was that last modified phrase – “just at the next bend in the trail” – that adorned the back of Robinson’s bright green t-shirt on Saturday. Underneath was “Love, Gary,” printed in his brother’s scribble handwriting.
Robinson, his family, and hundreds of others got up early Saturday morning and traveled to Frederick for the annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk. They toured Baker Park – many of them holding photos and mementos – remembering loved ones they had lost to suicide.
This year’s event raised approximately $ 85,000 for suicide prevention efforts, said coordinator Jill Martin. About 600 registered walkers.
“There’s therapy in there, by not being alone,” Martin said. “There is a healing power in her.”
Martin got involved in the annual walk – which is organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and replicated across the country – after losing his son, Taylor, in 2016. He was 25.
When Martin attended his first community walk that year, something clicked. Since then, she has been president of the event every year.
“It was just something that looked good to me,” she said.
According to the AFSP, 130 Americans commit suicide every day. In 2019, according to the CDC, it was the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 44.
The pain of losing someone to suicide is unique, said Robinson. It’s harder to recover from a type of loss that people are so reluctant to talk about. And this lack of openness can make it harder to identify loved ones who might need help.
“It’s kind of silent suffering,” said Robinson.
But despite the heaviness of the atmosphere, attendees also expressed their joy throughout Saturday’s event. Upbeat music floated through the park from large speakers in the bandshell.
Many walkers took their dogs. Megan Kim, who walked for her childhood best friend Alexis Hill, had a family member’s dog dyed purple. It was Hill’s favorite color, and it’s a color often used to represent suicide prevention efforts.
“It’s not the same without her,” said Beth Skelton, another close friend of Hill’s. She smiled, remembering Hill’s strong, “unapologetic” sense of humor, looking across the park as the bell tower rang at 11 a.m. “She was a force to be reckoned with.”
Close to Skelton and Kim, Lothar Frenz was playing with his 1 year old son, Maddox.
Frenz’s father, who had the same name, committed suicide in 2018. A large coalition of the family came to the march on Saturday.
Originally from El Salvador, the Frenz family followed Lothar Sr. to the United States after immigrating in the 1980s. He was a father figure not only to his own children, but also to a cohort of nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
“He was like a pillar for our family,” said Frenz’s nephew Erich. “We miss him. He will be missed forever.”
Maddox squeaked happily a few feet away, chasing a small ball through the grass. In a few months, he will be two years old.
“It’s good to see families together,” Erich said. “It gives me hope.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for people in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak to a certified auditor, call 1-800-273-8255.
Crisis Text Line is an SMS service for emotional support in a crisis. To speak with a qualified listener, text HELLO to 741741. It’s free, available 24/7 and confidential.
Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek