The 4th annual Macon Memories was held Tuesday, September 20th at Key Park. Macon Memories, is an event that was formed by the Macon County Health Council four years ago in honor of suicide prevention month. Brenda Harper, committee coordinator and Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network volunteer, welcomed everyone to the event. She was followed by the opening prayer from Brother Dean Sircy and local singers Lydia Doss and Chelsea O’Hair. Macon Memories had speakers that shared their stories of how suicide has affected their lives. They came together to celebrate loved ones lives and comfort neighbors in their loss. A candlelit ceremony was held with help from the FCCLA Club. During the event the Roark and Johns families presented Brenda Harper, Coordinator for Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, with a donation to TSPN. Brenda Harper, Committee coordinator said “The event went very well. We had the largest crowd we have ever had.”
One of the speakers at Macon Memories, Toni Roark Reid, was kind enough to share her story with the Macon County Times in hopes of helping others:
September 4th marked 5 years since my daddy, Larry Glynn Roark, took his life. Before that I knew of people who had done this, but I had never known a loss like this. In my eyes, I felt like daddy had a good life, loving wife of 50 years, four hard-headed, but loving daughters. He was a farmer so he loved to be outdoors and he loved horses, and he was so friendly and always willing to help others. He literally never met a stranger, a trait that I picked up along the way. But I guess that just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover. People can become really good at hiding their emotions and internal turmoil. For two years, daddy struggled with something; honestly we still to this day can’t even tell you what it was that took control of his life. He became scared, fragile, and he felt like his life was over. I think he felt like he could no longer be the provider and protector that he expected himself to be. At the time in his life when he should have been enjoying retirement, he felt like he had nothing else to live for. We tried all kinds of therapy, took him to a hypnotist, and several medications. We had MRI’s, CT’s, you name it, and we did it. We kept thinking that there had to be some medical reason for his change in behavior. The person who my daddy had become was the farthest thing from his true character.
Daddy had tried to take his life twice before, but on his third attempt, he succeeded. And in all honesty, he had shown improvement that week. He was more upbeat and mama said he acted more like the old Larry. On Sunday, we went to church like we do every Sunday. All we can figure out is he knew we’d be gone for a couple hours, so no one would be there to stop him or try to save him. Obviously there was something eating away at him, but I don’t think he really wanted to die. I think he, just like every person who suffers from depression or any mental illness, just wanted the pain to stop. I wish they could realize that the pain doesn’t go away, it is merely transferred to someone else, those of us left here to deal with the aftermath of their decision. The person who completes the act dies once, but those of us left behind die a thousand deaths, reliving those terrible moments and trying to understand WHY?
There are people who think you aren’t supposed to talk about suicide, but I feel the complete opposite. We still have some people who ask us why we talk about it so much. We want the world to know that suicide is a significant public health concern, and we want to increase awareness so that we can possibly reduce or eliminate suicide all together.
This month alone I’ve had two co-workers lose someone to suicide. Why? This makes me want to cry, and scream, and shout to these people, there is NO reason big enough to harm yourself. Losing a job/financial issues, breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend, not fitting in with the status quo, etc… All these things are temporary problems, but if you commit suicide, it’s over. You’ve made a very permanent decision to a temporary problem.
I guess my underlying message is to continue living. Suicide doesn’t end the chances of life getting worse, it eliminates the possibility of it ever getting any better. Life is never going to be easy for anyone, but you can learn from your past, live in the present, and work to better your future. Each person has a unique gift to offer the world, and leaving the world prematurely by suicide is taking that gift that was meant to be shared with others, and ultimately, the world will not be as bright as it was meant to be.
Toni’s mom, Peggy, wrote this poem on the day of Macon Memories in remembrance of her husband who left this world to soon:
The days are empty
The nights are long
Time is spent wondering
What could have gone wrong.
We may never know
Why you thought you had to go
Questions will remain
The answers will always be the same.
So we cherish our memories
So precious and dear
And wish with all our hearts
That you were still here.
We know that can’t happen
For you are gone away
So we will wait here to join you
On that wonderful day.
We will keep on talking
And doing what we can
To show others,
There is still hope in this troubled land
Macon Memories is a yearly event that is held in September in conjunction with National Suicide Awareness month. If you or someone you know is severely depressed or actively suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-237-TALK (8255). Trained counselors in your area are standing by to provide you with the help you need.