When the wind blows stand your ground, stay focused. Don’t chase what you’ve lost just love what you have.
In July 2000, I received the news that would change my life forever. I’ll never forget the day my grandmother came in my room with tears down her face. I was unsure the cause of her sadness, but I immediately felt the pain. My chest got tight and my tears began to flow. She had to bare the devastating news that my mother was gone and she was never coming back…
My mother, Pamela, was a Phenom. A gifted woman. Growing up in a strict baptist household, her childhood had been restricted in several ways. She focused on academics. She was the Salutatorian of her high school class and voted “Most likely to Succeed.” Graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University while she was pregnant with me. She relocated to Denver to obtain what I believe was freedom. She was a burgeoning entrepreneur and was in the process of publishing a magazine. The project started out well, but as time passed progress seemed to be a struggle. She had taken out loans for her business and the pressure of debt was weighing on her. She turned to alcohol to cope with stress. This choice only threw her further off course. Soon the business was on the verge of bankruptcy and depression was setting in. Meanwhile her only son was away in Virginia with his dad’s mother. He had visited Denver that summer, about 3 weeks before he got the news.
“… I really enjoyed visiting my mom this summer. We had a lot of fun hanging out. We went to the movies and got to see some of my old friends from Denver. Her new house is really nice but it made me sad to be with her when she was drinking. It seemed weird because I found a lot of small empty bottles in the drawers and stuff. She doesn’t like to talk about it, so I took the bottles and hid them away. Something about being there felt like a dream, like a distorted reality. Hard to explain. It was just a strange feeling. We got into a fight because she wants me to move there and I didn’t want to. I like being able to visit Colorado, but all my friends and family are here in Virginia. I start high school this year and I don’t think I can start over. I feel like my mother really needs me right now but I just don’t know what to do…”
As we cried, my grandmother handed me a letter that was hand typed by my mother. I did not read it for a while, but when I did, I remember it saying “I feel so very guilty. I should have played a larger part in your life. You have always been such a very good boy and now, almost a man. I may not have shown it, but you have always been important in my life. The happiest times in my life were when we lived on Del Rio Ct. You were so little and sweet. I was feeling strong and healthy then. I would give anything to relive those times with you…” You see, my mother took her own life, caught in a whirlwind of depression and alcoholism. Some things are still unclear to me because I was just a kid at the time. But all I’ve ever chosen to remember is that my mother had a ton of ambition, a witty sense of humor, a charismatic presence that brought smiles to every room she entered, and a love for me that was undeniable. Growing up she was the coolest, most intelligent woman I had ever met. And for a very long time I felt like my mother was the only person that understood me. From her I’ve learned that Death is a part of Life. I no longer fear death or much of anything for that matter. Much of the work I do now is inspired by her.
As my journey unfolds I plan to tell my story and get involved with organizations that support mental and emotional illnesses. Today is August 9th. The same day 14 years ago that I received the news and this letter. My advice to you is “Don’t store your pain, Use it as Fuel.” You too can turn your struggle into triumph. Two weeks later my #FruitsOfLabor Story began…
I do hope that you understand; I’m Just a Student with a Message.
Rest in Peace Pamela Gwynn Bailey