When I was in university so many years ago, I made a number of new friends over in the Engineering Faculty. Through these now life long cronies, I met Sandra Hanington. Over the years I would get tidbits of updates as they continued to stay in touch with her. It has been 3 weeks now since I received the tragic e-mail that Sandra’s son, Jack Windeler, had taken his own life in residence at Queen’s University. He was enrolled in first year of the Arts and Science program. The news was devastating. Hearing about the death of a young person comes as harsh news to anyone. It represents a life plan way out of order. As a mother myself of a son just a year younger than her Jack, I tried to imagine the ‘mother grief’ that Sandra must be feeling having lost her oldest so abruptly. Suicide adds another level of emotional complication. It seems so futile, so preventable, so mysterious. The questions it leaves us with are many. Time has ticked by since hearing the news but it seems that a day doesn’t pass, where I see a tall, young, healthy, active teenager, and I can’t help but wonder how they are any different from Jack. Smart, athletic, thoughtful, friendly. I had heard that Sandra and Eric wanted to set up a memorial fund for their son through the Kids Help Phone organization. I am sure many of us have been touched by someone much like Jack and we wished that there was some way we could have helped. Consider making a donation to Kids Help Phone in memory of Jack Windeler. In honour of your Jack.
One of Canon Henry Scott Holland’s best-known writings “Death is nothing at all” was read at Jack’s funeral.
Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 14, 2010
Jack’s Mom found my bog entry this week and we have reconnected. We are smarter and wiser for our years. We both have been hurt by death. Though, her pain I can’t even begin to imagine. The loss of a child is a pain I don’t know. As September 10th was Suicide Awareness Day, the family has released this touching video in hopes of teaching others. As you watch it, consider the role that you play as brother to your neighbour. The strength you can give by recognizing someone might need your help, your voice. Our lives are made richer by caring for others. Even people we do not really know.
UPDATE: DECEMBER 14, 2010
Our town is coming to terms with another suicide this past month and because of the high profile of her family, Daron Richardson’s passing received much media attention. She was a student at the small high school our teenager attended and in that way, this event is close to home. When we hear of a death by suicide, we all in some way become collateral damage as we struggle to understand how this very personal and final decision gets made. We wonder if any of our loved ones may be at risk, without us even knowing it. We wonder how we can possibly help to make a difference, thus affecting a different outcome. Suicide makes all of feel very vulnerable. It reminds us that there will forever be unanswered questions.
I also want to share with you the announcement of The Jack Project which has been launched by the Windeler family, in memory of their son, Jack. You can read more at the new website. The focus is to support ’emerging adults’ in Canada by working with Kids Help Phone and Mental Health First Aid Canada to combat the massive stigma associated with mental illness.