Teams came together to honor loved ones last Sunday during the Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention at the Nelson W.Wolff Municipal Stadium. Tensions were high for many families, including mine, who were participating for the first time. We walked in honor of my son, Andrew “Rodan” Murguia, who committed suicide in 2011.
We gathered at the front benches wearing our white “Team Rodan” T-shirts.
In the opening ceremony, Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau shared the story of her late husband who committed suicide. Shortly after his death, a friend told her she could be happy again one day. I wondered how many of us really believed that statement – I have been trying for four years.
It felt good to be surrounded by others who understood our pain, and I decided to ask a few participants what it meant to be here.
Kimberly Farmer was part of a group honoring William David Alexander Beasley, her boss’s late son. This was the group’s first year of participation.
“It means a lot for all of us to be here,” Farmer said. “We are supporting (this cause) for everyone to be aware that there is a lot of sadness, depression, and suicide out there. Maybe we can help people so that we don’t have to lose anymore loved ones.”
The sight of families and friends experiencing loss was overwhelming for many individuals, including the family of Jack Anthony Bennett.
“I feel very overwhelmed,” said Janice Sanchez, mother of Jack Anthony. “Jack passed on April 25 of this year. When we walked in and saw all of these people, it was overwhelming. (I feel) a mixture of things, but (it’s) really overwhelming.”
Lisa Moore stated this was her family’s third year honoring Quintin Moore. “It means everything for me to be here for the third year. It gives me hope that other families will not have to go through what we did with our son and that other kids can find hope. I’m sorry, I can’t, I just can’t.” she said and she walked away.
At this point, I was becoming overwhelmed myself. I was going through the same pain.
Yet, I knew this event was important and these emotions needed to be heard.
I approached Mariana Vasquez. She stated that this was their second year and she was here for her son, Joshua Reyna. She said, “It’s kinda like, he’s not here, but in a way we are supporting him. We could not support him at the time, but now we can bring awareness so that it doesn’t happen to other people.”
“We are here to raise awareness, suicide awareness, and to honor my niece, Victoria Casillas, who took her life this year,” said Michelle Hungerford. “This is our first walk and we will be at every walk after this because it is such an amazing cause and it’s important to spread the word.”
Hungerford mentioned her sister’s previous experiences working with a similar group in North Carolina, and the importance of events like the Suicide Prevention Walk.
“We are just here to honor all the people who couldn’t find their way, to help those who are struggling and to tell them that their story is not over. There is hope,”Hungerford added.
What about my own family? I wondered. I asked my son’s friend, Joanna Aguirre and her friend Anthony Aleksander Gallegos, what it meant to be here for my Andrew.
“Andrew was a good friend,”Aguirre said. “He knew how to make you smile and gave the best hugs. I miss his craziness, how he was happy all the time, his smile and the way he loved Jessica (Aguirre’s sister).”
Gallegos said he didn’t know Andrew when he was alive, but he had come to the event to support Aguirre.
“I know it means a lot to my best friend, so anyone who means a lot to her means a lot to me,” Gallegos said. “I didn’t even know him. Joanna always says I say things like he would. I wished I would have known him. I really wish I would have known him.”
I finally spoke with Natalie Saldivar, my 11 year-old niece, about Andrew.
“He was my favorite cousin and he was really nice, so I wanted to do this,” Saldivar said with a smile. “I asked, begged my mom if I could come.”
The walk had begun by this time, and I cried as I took my first steps. All I could think was, “I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t have a son who committed suicide.” This was harder than I imagined.
We were tired and exhausted, but we finally completed the three miles. I ran ahead to the stadium, barely making it back in time for the balloon release. It was such a simple act, but the emotions ran high. Beautiful white balloons rose like kisses from us to heaven, straight to our loved ones. It was a powerful ending to an emotional but awesome day.
The Suicide Prevention Walk set their fundraising goal at $60,000. Thanks to the hard work of event organizers and participants, the walk raised more than $72,000.
I hope people will have the courage to read this story. I know that reading emotional responses to a situation involving suicide is very difficult, but this is just one step forward to understanding that suicide is very real for everyone.
*Top image: Team Rodan during the 2015 Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention. Photo by Augustine Cavazos.