Each and everyday we mothers think of the children we have lost to suicide. Their journeys with life were tragically ended too quickly. We remember their smiles, their tears, their laughter, their hopes, their successes, and their challenges. We share their stories as we seek to heal, to support one another, to learn, and to prevent the loss of another child.
Passed: Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
He was a big baby. You might say a champion baby. At 9 pounds, 13 ounces, Sean Nicholas Grzeskowiak was hands down the biggest baby born in his family. This includes cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. He was born the third son to Alan and Audrey Grzeskowiak on June 3rd, 1991. He spent plenty of time on the floor wrestling with his dad and brothers, Justin and Jason. Look outside and you saw a blur of white hair flashing by – – that was Sean. Look on top of the fridge and find a 19 month old? That was Sean. Look outside and you don’t see Sean? Look up. He’s in a tree. He’s on top of the jungle gym. He’s riding his jump bike. He’s cliff diving. He’s doing a double axel on figure skates. He’s doing a double back flip on the floor mat.
Sean died on August 14, 2013 at the age of 22. In his short life, he got a Degree in Law Enforcement, became an Army Ranger, married his soul mate, and, if we go back to the very beginning of things, he got to be a big brother. He was the baby of the family for seven years. Growing up in a cul-de-sac in Blaine playing basketball, dodge ball, rollerblading and biking with the neighbor kids he could never imagine how life could be better. Then his sister, Alaina, was born. Suddenly, he had someone to look out for. Someone to help. Someone who looked up to him. And he became a hero.
He was home schooled and had a strong foundation in Christian teachings. He worked in children’s ministries, drama, and puppetry. He went on missions trips, going far and wide to share the Good News with others across the US. Perhaps it was the traveling, the strong moral foundation, the role of protector that influenced Sean to follow the path he did.
Drawn to a career in justice, and being a natural crack shot, he wanted to be on a SWAT team. There were no jobs to be had on the local police force. After working in the security field and body building for a year or so, he decided enlisting in the Army was the surest way to develop his career. In the fall of 2010, he enlisted with his brother and after going through basic training and Airborne school together, they parted ways. Jason went to Italy and Sean went to RASP. After successfully navigating weeks of training, tests and trials that caused others to give up or quit, PFC Specialist Sean Grzeskowiak officially became part of the 75th Ranger Regiment. He was with the best of the best.
During RASP training, Sean met Olivia. He was attracted to her energy and to her eyes. She was also very sassy and he loved that about her. He said she was perfect for him. They carried on exchanging phone calls, emails, texts and airline tickets for a few months before he proposed on the steps of the Opera House in Savannah, Georgia in January, 2012. They were married eight months later. It was a perfect August day and their wedding pictures could have been plucked from the pages of any fairy tale. Both were very happy and very much in love.
Things changed for Sean after he got back from his last deployment. There are trusted friends and family members who may have had glimpses of what he was going through. We are all baffled and shocked to hear we have lost our Sean. Our fun, energetic, adventurous, devout, loving hero Sean left us.
Look around. If you don’t see him, look up. He’s in a tree, on top of the jungle gym, cliff diving, doing a double axle on figure skates. Where you see fun and adventure, you see Sean.
Mom: Audrey Dupre — firstname.lastname@example.org
Passed: Monday, May 13th, 2013
He had a plan. He was going to woo his wife back to the spot where he proposed to her. She would remember what lead them to this spot years ago and trust in his love for her, feel secure he would provide for her always, and she was going to fall in love with him again. They would return to their home together and there would be no more talk of divorce.
I had a plan. I was going to get a college degree and make bank. I was going to have a big house and an awesome car. I was going places my mother had never been. That was my plan.
Then I became his mother. From the first moment he planted in my belly, I changed my focus. I moved away from school and married his father so he would have a family. My labor was long and delivering him was painful. When I first looked at his angel face, still bruised from the tools used by the doctors who pulled him from my body, I learned what love is.
Love is a white haired, tiny boy who kneads your earlobes when you hold him. Love is a smile for everyone who enters the house. Love is kind, and my son was kind. He loved spending time with people, talking, playing, and working together. He never hurried. He was always present, always attentive, always listening and smiling. He was the best friend you could have, the best brother you could wish for. He was the best thing that entered my life.
Because of him, I found God and discovered the miracle of selfless love. He, to me, was the sun and I was a plant whose growth followed his light. Every decision I made was for his benefit. I finished my degree. I gave him a brother. When the public schools failed him, I started a homeschool. To keep him at home with me, I quit my job and started a home business. I grew in ways that would be impossible if he were not in my life. I became organized, I developed leadership skills. I learned to talk with people.
I did all of this to build a life for him. I had never known such a love before I met my son.
His plan dictated that if his wife did not return to him, he would protect her from the shame of Biblical adultery and divorce. He would end his life.
I try to take some comfort knowing he loved me, and I treasure my memories of the wonderful years I had loving him, but I lost my sunshine that day. I lost my future. I lost the grandchildren I will never have. I lost happiness on holidays. Every day, in every memory I have, I miss him. I miss the baby, I miss the child, and I miss the man.
Oh! If I could labor with him again, I would do it for a week to have my sunshine back. I would labor a month, a year! If any power on Earth could bring him back to me, could give me light again, could make me know that love again. Anything! I look out my window at the flowing river. I see the light reflecting on the water, I imagine myself carried down on that water, through locks and dams, past cities and fields, down to the ocean where I will be poured out one day. Again, I will be with my son.
Until then, I do the best I can and bear the pain that people say they could never survive. People ask, “Does she have other children?” The answer is yes. I still have two beautiful children that I love with all of my heart. Justin gave me that heart.
Mom: Audrey Dupre — email@example.com
Passed: Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
Bradley was our firstborn. Any mother will agree that her firstborn is an amazing and precious gift. A life-changing bundle of joy.
As Bradley grew and matured into a tall, dark and handsome young man, there was nothing better than a big strong bear hug…such a gift for his mama. Those sparkling deep brown eyes and bright white smile with gorgeous dimples could brighten anyone’s day! But most importantly, was the heart of gold God blessed him with. A heart that lead him to care genuinely about others with a willingness and passion to do whatever he could to help.
As a college student he lived on a limited budget, as most college students do. One chilly evening when returning from classes to his little studio apartment in Uptown, he came upon a dad with his children searching through the trash dumpsters in the alley. This touched Bradley’s heart. He ran inside and gathered up anything warm he could find and took the items out to the dad – gloves, hooded sweatshirts, etc. He quickly scurried back inside in search of any cash, groceries, or other items he thought would be helpful, but to his disappointment the family was gone when he returned to the alley. I remember him telling me how sorry he was that he couldn’t do more for them. And that’s just the way he lived his life, with a passion for helping others whenever and where ever he could – seizing the opportunity to make a difference! Whether it was a smile, a listening ear, his favorite baseball cap or the shirt off his back, he gave what he had to make your day better!
I know that God had great plans for him, especially as he worked so hard to earn his degree in political science from the University of Minnesota. Bradley had dreams of somehow, someway making things better for the less fortunate in this world. Sadly, just two short months after graduation, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.
Contrary to what some believe, suicide is not selfish.
Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.
Bradley is missed every single day by many in so many ways:
- his sense of humor, words of encouragement, insight and wisdom beyond his years
- his contagious smile, the ridiculous ease with which he mastered nearly any sport he tried
- his younger sisters to whom he was a best friend and a hero
- the empty chair at every holiday gathering, every birthday he’s not here for, the random phone calls just to chat
I could not be more proud of my son and the difference he made in so many lives during his brief time on earth. He brought life-changing perspective to everyone he met and to all who hear his stories. He taught me about perseverance, unconditional love and, most importantly, that one person can make a difference!
Incredibly grateful that I am his Mama and looking forward to our heavenly reunion with many wonderful hugs and sparkling smiles.
Mom: Rene’ Collins Rosendahl — firstname.lastname@example.org
Passed: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
Noah came into this world sooner than we expected. He was born about ten days before his due date. He was ready to meet the world and take it on. He was so curious and active. As a baby he loved his baby swing and he always had to have some noise along with the movement.
As a toddler, Noah was a typical little boy. He loved getting into kitchen cupboards and rearranging everything. He would not stop exploring until his body just had to rest. Sleep was not a favorite past time for Noah, but sometimes he could not fight it no matter where he was, like in his high chair during dinner.
Pre-teen years found Noah hanging out with friends in the neighborhood. Many games of baseball and kickball were played in our front yard. He loved to be outside even when his friends were inside playing video games.
Bowling became a favorite sport for Noah as he grew into his teen years. Countless hours were spent at the local bowling alley. After he got his driver’s license, he would meet his friends at the local fast food restaurants or go out for half price appetizers. Even as Noah got older, he continued to be on the move and would not stop until his body just had to rest. Many naps were spent on the bathroom rug before or after his shower.
Noah accepted Jesus as his savior and started volunteering at our church. He looked forward to spending time there with the adults making dinner on Wednesday nights. Noah made a big impact on so many people – young and old.
Noah always had a big smile. He had funny one-liners he wanted to try out on girls. “Do you work at Little Caesars because you’re hot and I’m ready?!” He loved making people laugh – even his teachers at school.
Noah’s bedtime ritual was always the same – no matter how old he was. There were lots of hugs and “I love you” was said multiple times. That is what we miss the most along with his big smile.
Noah had such a sensitive and caring heart. He had a hard time living in this cruel world that bullied him and assaulted him. Depression and anxiety filled much of his life. Many hours of therapy and several attempts with various medications could not take away his pain. Our unending love and support could not take away his pain. Only Jesus could take away his pain. Noah is “happy, happy, happy” and at home with Jesus now. A piece of our heart is with Jesus too. We are attempting to put the rest of the pieces of our lives together moment by moment. We find our peace knowing that Noah is now at peace and we will see him again someday. We love you and miss you like crazy Noah!
Mom: LuAnn Johnson
Passed: Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
I’ve moved two of my favorite pictures of Zachary close to me as I write this.
Like bookends, these pictures mark the start and end of his beautiful life and they lift me out of my “Pink-Floyd comfortably numb” place just enough to tell you about him.
In one picture, he is a sleeping toddler after another active day; his head rests on the bunny pillow I gave him and he’s wrapped in his favorite blanket.
In the other, he is 19, just weeks before we lost him. He wears backwards a well-worn John Deere cap and his favorite “I biked it” t-shirt; he looks down at a kitten in his lap, the corners of his mouth turned up in a small smile. Zachary loved kittens.
Our Gramma to Grandson connection was always music. He once told me that his generation got robbed; “The best music came from your generation, Gramma.”
Can you see how I smiled when he said that? I did. I smiled a really big smile.
Zachary played guitar and drums and sang in the school chorus. I miss listening to his jam sessions, attending his concerts; I miss turning up the music really loud on whatever device was handy and dancing around the house. He rolled his eyes, like he was supposed to, and tried to hide an approving smile. We were happy people. He was the only family member who would play Rock Band with me for hours on my Xbox. Even after he had long outgrown the game, he played it with me – I always logged in as a beginner; he always logged in as advanced. He delighted in my struggle to keep up with him on Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It was a workout for me, but one day we finished the song together without failing. I hear his giggle on that day. I see his smile. I miss him.
I miss him in the passenger seat of my yellow Volkswagen bug with flower decals and eyelashes (which he loved to drive in “Sports” gear) and singing along to Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” at a deafening volume with the windows down. Zachary was prepared for Fleetwood Mac’s 2013 tour and planned to surprise his girlfriend with tickets.
I miss arguing with him about the size of his ear gauges and the permanent holes they would leave in his young ears. I miss the day my daughter and I took a Friday off work so we could “dread lock” his gorgeous, thick hair — with which, by the way, no one else in my family was blessed. I miss watching him cook his eggs in the morning and, for the short while he lived with us, our daily Starbuck’s stops on the way to work. I miss our shopping trips to Zumie’s, always his preference for new clothes, and I miss sitting in the ski lodge waiting for him and his friends to grow cold and tired of snowboarding.
On one of those trips, I was determined to teach myself to knit while waiting in the ski lodge. During a warm-up break, Zachary came back to the lodge, walked over and plopped down next to me. “How’s it going, Gramma,” he asked. I looked up to make sure he was truly waiting for an answer and said, “Well, Zachary, I can’t seem to get the hang of this knitting thing.” I hear his response — clear as a bell, comforting as silk — words that only well-loved children evoke in their grandparents. “That’s okay,” he said. “Cool Grammas don’t knit, anyway!”
Even now, those words bring such a smile to this grieving, Cool Gramma’s face.
Always on the move, my Zachary loved life. He really, really did. I’m often compelled to prove that in some way – to myself and anyone else who will listen. The first of my three grandchildren, in hindsight I was still so very young when he was born. I remember feeling grateful that I could keep up with him. His life’s circumstances often put the three of us — Zachary and his dad and me – together. My son was a heavy equipment operator at the time, and Zachary had collected a library of books on heavy equipment. His bedroom was a miniature version of Machinery Hill at the State Fair. He loved visiting construction projects and his dad knew how to find them. Off we’d go, the three of us, visiting construction site after construction site, where Zachary would point and with 100% accuracy recite by brand name and function each and every piece of equipment. His baby-boy words are on repeat in my head – the “r”s disappearing, the “l”s turned into “w”s:
“John Deeww Cwane.”
Zachary, of course, outgrew heavy equipment and moved on in his life, one boot still in the dirt, the other in snow. He shared those loves with his dad, who literally made a home for them with his bare hands. Zachary started life on five acres of land in a broken down house that his dad transformed into five acres of bike jumps and four-wheeler paths in the woods and a comfortable, beautiful four-bedroom home with a garage full of the usual big-boy toys. His life should be defined by those things – not by how he died. So, at Zachary’s funeral, we staged the church foyer to display his well-worn dirt bike, snowboard, snowmobile suit and boots, a poem he had recently written and a framed copy of almost every high school senior picture taken by the family’s favorite photographer. People whispered, “He could have been a model.”
There’s that giggle again. Oh, this is so hard.
Like bookends, Zachary’s mourners were greeted with two displays. In prelude to a walk down the church aisle, the first was evidence of a life well lived and loved.
At the end of the aisle, was his body – head resting on the bunny pillow I gave him and a casket wrapped in his favorite blanket.
Mom: Linda Halverson
Passed: Monday, November 26th, 2012
Wyatt’s smile could make my day. A mother always remembers her child’s first smile. It never occurs to her that there could be a last smile, or conversation, or hug.
Depression takes the sunniest, funniest little boy and turns him into someone who is sad and lonesome. Suicide convinced him that our lives would be better if he was gone. That kind of convoluted thinking took my child from me, and there was nothing I could say or do to convince him that he was wrong.
We remember Wyatt as everyone’s best friend, a happy kid with a smile for everyone, a generous soul, a brother, a son, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin – a person who was here for sixteen years that I would not trade for anything – except maybe sixteen years and one more day.
Mom: Megan Pratt