This morning, I participated in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Queens. I won’t be in town for the Manhattan walk, so I decided to fundraise and participate in the Queens walk this year. As expected, there was no comparison regarding the two boroughs in terms of size and turnout; last year, Manhattan had over 500 registered walkers; this year, Queens had only 198. The turnout for the Manhattan one was huge last year. It almost felt like a massive festival, complete with huge amounts of refreshments and even live music. Given the proximity of Battery Park to the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan walk even attracts a lot of tourists to either come and donate or participate in the walk ad hoc. Astoria Park in Queens is certainly less of a tourist destination, but it actually felt more community like there today. A group of family and friends even set up a barbeque and offered free grilled food to walkers and other participants.
Including a corporate match from Chris’s company, I raised $3,630, which was 180% of my original goal for this year, and I was ranked number 1 for fundraising in Queens. The Queens borough goal for the walk this year was $19,000, but unfortunately, it looks like we raised only about $8,000. The director and organizer of the walk asked me when I arrived if I wanted to say a few words, but I was so caught off guard that my name was the only name on the Top Fundraiser banner and that I wasn’t asked to prepare anything beforehand, so I declined. I did take home the banner, though.
This year like last, I had mixed emotions taking part in the walk and the fundraiser. The cynical and negative side of me just thinks that not many people really care and want to make a difference. But I raised even more money this year than I did last. I am grateful for it, but at the end of the day, it’s money. The cynical side of me thinks about Ed and how he isn’t here anymore, and the walk is a reminder to me that his presence is gone. I’ll never see or feel him again, and it really fucking hurts, some days more than others. As each year passes, I will probably reveal more and more about him and my perspective on his life. A number of people have commented how courageous it is to share such detail, but frankly speaking, I probably wouldn’t have gotten as many donations or as much money if I didn’t; one person even told me this when he donated a significant three-digit sum. People don’t relate to generic messages about change or making a difference or helping those in need with their multitude of needs; they relate to real human experiences and feelings. To be human, we need to share our experiences.
It’s still hard for me to share the details especially in spoken word in person, but it’s easier for me to write it down and share it that way because writing comes more naturally to me. I don’t have to see anyone’s face or grimaces or flinches or judgments when I write it down and disseminate my message. Those who care even a bit can read it; those who don’t care at all can ignore it, and they can go burn in hell. And it’s clear to me that other people feel the same; they don’t really want to talk to me openly about it. They’ll give me comments like, “Great job on reaching your goal!” or, “Good cause to support!” but it won’t have any real feeling or emotion in it. I don’t mind that much. I’m trying to accept a little more each day that emotions are hard for people to grapple with. But I want to live in a world where we can be open with each other, even and especially when it hurts, because that’s when we reveal the most about ourselves and are the rawest and most genuine. As Ed said in his wish to me, I want to live a life of meaning, not one that is just going through generic stages of life and passing through as though on a train to nowhere.
I really miss Ed, but I do hope that he is out there somewhere looking at what I am doing today and cracking a small smile that I’m attempting to help others in his name in a tiny way.
I don’t know why, but in the last week, I thought about the only stanza of a poem I’ve managed to memorize and still commit to memory to this day since I was 13 – it is the final stanza of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “Annabel Lee.” It goes like this:
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulcher there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
The first part, “for the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams” kind of reminds me of my brother now when I think of this stanza. I guess it’s because it’s saying through life and through everything that happens, he’s still there with me and I can still feel him, just as the beautiful Annabel Lee is always with Poe despite dying prematurely.