For the last two months, I’ve been holding back telling my mom that I’m fundraising and volunteering for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In general, she’s never been a fan of charity and has always disapproved when my dad has given monetary donations, or when I have volunteered my time to organizations I’ve believed in. Why would you volunteer time to help other people when you could be helping your own family? she would always ask. In the case of this particular organization and cause, it’s even more sensitive and touchy because she doesn’t like people knowing how Ed passed away, nor does she want people knowing any details of the mental illnesses from which he suffered. The majority of her Jehovah’s Witness congregation have no idea my brother is not alive anymore or how he could have died. Her own living sister in Vietnam has no idea, nor the very few relatives on her cousin’s side in Southern California. It is still a big secret.

Two people in my life have insisted that I tell my parents — Chris, and his cousin’s girlfriend. It’s not about whether they will agree with what you are doing or care about the cause, they said. It’s about them knowing what’s important to you and what you are choosing to do with your life. It’s ultimately about facing the truth. I really didn’t want to, and I’ve been terrified of saying anything about it, but this evening, I finally decided (after being pushed) to tell her.

It was actually a bit shocking how my mom responded. For once in my life, she surprised me. She asked me how much money I had raised, and was astonished when I told her how much. How did you find out about this? When did you start this? She had a lot of questions and said she had no idea that these organizations existed. My mom said she was happy I was doing this, and that more needs to be done for this problem in our society. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

It’s amazing when the most predictable people in your life become unpredictable and surprise you in pleasant ways.

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