As a family, we are undertaking 21 challenges in the run-up to what would have been Samuel’s 21st birthday on 2nd October, and we are asking our lovely community to get involved too.
Samuel died by suicide on the 2nd of September 2020, a month before his 18th birthday. Earlier this year we faced a torturous month-long inquest, two and a half years after his death.
As I sat in despair reading the legal documents in the lead-up, I decided I needed to take positive action, to get us through this hideous time and give us some future hope.
When people die by suicide so much focuses on how they died. The circumstances, legalities, failings and what-ifs. You can get lost in the process and the utter despair it creates.
We needed some inspiration to keep our sanity. We wanted to change the narrative, to bring some much-needed positivity.
We wanted to remember Samuel for how he lived. He had a huge character and was the loudest of us all, with a massively competitive spirit. He loved to party and was a thrill seeker from an early age. He had an infectious enthusiasm for trying new activities; they were often outrageous and occasionally illegal!
I messaged my other children. I told them I’d had an idea, something that might sustain us through the inquest and the long summer leading to his anniversary.
“How about we do 21 things for Samuel as we head towards his 21st birthday”, I suggested.
Birthdays are very different to anniversaries. They bring a history of fabulous memories and each commemorates the arrival of my 10lb 12oz bonny boy into the world.
Three years after his loss and approaching this significant birthday felt different. It seemed appropriate to make it a celebratory event. After all, Samuel just loved to party!
So, what activities have we undertaken? We wanted to include things he loved and others he never got a chance to do. We’ve done skydives, zip wires across the Tyne, run marathons and got tattoos. We’ve also embraced tamer activities. We’ve eaten his favourite takeaways and sweet treats. We’ve watched his favourite films, read his books and built Lego he loved.
On his birthday weekend we have a family graffiti workshop to create an artwork we hope he would be proud of, followed by an assault course he would have aced.
We are turning our challenges into a fundraising effort.
This year, I embarked upon a project to create a suicide memorial quilt for the north-east, where I now live. The North East Speak Their Name is an amazing project which has produced a powerful artwork, honouring those lost to suicide. It will be launched on 11th November and will tour public places across our region.
I partnered with Tracey Beadle, who runs the charity Quinn Retreat; who provide short breaks to those bereaved by suicide or suffering with their mental health. Small charities often get overlooked and it would be amazing to generate some much-needed funding.
We would like others to join us in our challenges for Samuel. Our family, friends and suicide loss community. Why not pledge a tenner and do something that makes smile or gives you joy?
Together we can create some hope and support a wonderful charity, in Samuel’s name.
Here is the fundraising page: