During September, people all over the country and world are made aware of something awful. That something is a sweeping epidemic that is taking the lives of far too many fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends.
What I'm talking about is suicide.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, designated to make people aware. And for all intents and purposes, setting aside a month to focus on lives lost and those yet to be, is a good thing.
But you know what? I rarely remember that September is that all-important month. Why? Because October is that month for me — the month when my older sister, Megan, made her decision to leave this Earth for good.
But October isn't the only time I am aware of the awful hurt that comes with suicide. I am aware each time I see, think or dream about her three kids. I am aware when I open my top dresser drawer where I have carefully folded a light blue shirt of hers that I will never wear or move.
I am aware on her birthday in June. I am aware in July because it was during that month 12 years ago when she came home to Utah looking like the shell of the woman she once was.
I am aware on Thanksgiving and Christmas because among the many faces of family and friends, hers is not one of them. I am aware on Halloween because that's the day she decided to leave. And when I see an Almond Joy candy bar at the bottom of the Halloween bowl, I am aware because nobody except my sister actually eats those.
I am aware when I want to make that phone call that I can't. I am aware when I hear R&B music. I am aware when my oldest daughter "fanboys" over the latest heartthrob because Megan was the same way.
I am aware each time I pass what used to be the Exxon Mobile on Bangerter Highway because it was there where my sister asked if she could stay at my home another night, and I made an excuse so that she couldn't. I was exhausted because her sad energy was dragging me down, and I needed a break.
I am aware that sadness, utter despair and hopelessness exist even among the most unassuming of people. Yes, even the oldest of 10 children, wife and mother of three, college graduate who was loved by all who knew her, and who knew and believed in a loving Heavenly Father.
And after several years of wondering why, I am aware that there is nothing I could have done to stop my sister from choosing to leave. And there's probably not much I can do to stop another from making that same choice.
I am aware there is no one cure for suicide. There is not one magic word, action or pill that will cause a person to stay. Each situation has its set of challenges that are not always visible until it's too late.
I am aware that when it comes to suicide, hindsight isn't 20/20. After experiencing the aftermath, I still don't know what I could have done differently.
I took time to be with her. I spent hours on the phone. I did the best I could to show her I love her. And still, she left.
Making others aware of suicide is noble, and I have certainly done my best in these efforts. Suicide is real. It takes away loved ones in the blink of an eye while others are left standing to pick up the pieces of a life that will never be the same.
I am not aware of any one thing that will stop another person from deciding to leave. And being aware of the issue won't stop suicide from happening, I am convinced.
But spending time, giving a smile … just being kind for the sake of being kind will give you peace of mind that you did all you could to make others happy. And if a loved one decides it's his or her time to go, peace be with you until you meet again.
For those in crisis or those helping someone else, the suicide prevention lifeline is available at all hours by calling 1-800-273-TALK.