Sometimes I participate in magical thinking, even when I participate in fundraisers. On Saturday May 21, 2016, I participated in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Originally, I had also planned to participate in the Stroll for Epilepsy earlier on May 21st.
When the dates for both events were announced, I thought it was a divine message. three years before both events on May 21, 2013, I wrote “A Letter To Fathers Considering Suicide in the Digital Age.” The blog post explains how I experience my father’s suicide. The experience is a struggle… a struggle that has given me many gifts, including the strength to talk and write about epilepsy. When I wrote the May 2013 post, I didn’t realize it would become one of my favorite pieces, because it is extremely personal and vulnerable. Now I realize that it has become one of my favorites because it is personal and vulnerable.
I am not always vulnerable. I have been fighting for so many years, I thought God or The Universe wanted me to attend both events. I thought that if I were a good father, I would also bring my kids. I wanted to be there for the people with epilepsy and the survivors of suicide and for my children and… then a few months before the fundraisers, my body broke down. It became difficult for me to hold my camera, because I have something called “frozen shoulder.” It sounds like a bad metaphor for someone who is unwilling to be vulnerable… or for someone who is so busy trying to help ghosts that he forgets about those closest to him.
Despite my shoulder injury, I took these photos of The Overnight, but each picture hurt. The weekend before The Overnight, I needed to visit the hospital, because I couldn’t walk. (probably a kidney stone) The night of The Overnight, my kids could have walked longer than I did, although they are not allowed to walk the entire route until they are 14.
Sometimes 90% of magic is just showing up, and I may have captured some magic at the opening ceremonies. California Highway Patrolman Kevin Briggs (l) and Kevin Berthia spoke during the opening ceremonies. I may have seen them about ten years earlier on The Golden Gate Bridge. If I didn’t see them, I saw a few people very similar. In 2009, I wrote about The Photograph that Defined My Style. In that old post, I mention a photograph I did not take a few years earlier. I am glad that I waited to photograph them on the stage instead of the bridge.
My father was a California Highway Patrolman. I have wondered how his profession affected him. What happened to my father when he met people he couldn’t save? How did he feel when he notified parents that their children died? How did he carry the burden? As my father’s son, I have also wondered how I am like my father. When I started having children, I noticed little things. Sometimes I would tell similar jokes. I could hear my father’s voice when I spoke. Sometimes I walked like my father. How do I carry his burden?
Once the walk started, I wondered why I was walking. Was I walking for him? Why was I walking for him? Suddenly I realized that I was walking for my children. I also needed them to know that I was walking for them and that I wouldn’t leave them, at least not the way he left me.
So I told them… and then I took them back to the hotel and stayed with them the rest of the night.