Never Again-Now is the Time to Take Action and Raise Awareness

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Marine Corporal, Terry L. Bevins

Angela Olthoff, volunteer for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,  (AFSP.org) in her own words…

I will never forget that day, a day that was suppose to be like any other Saturday while attending my grad school class.  Nate was still away on a trip and it was just Rudy, my 7 lb. Shih Tzu and I lying in bed.  The alarm began to buzz and I hit the snooze button as many times as I could before I knew I would be late for class.  I finally hit the alarm  one more time, and told the Little Man it was time for me to get up.  Rudy looked so cozy which sent an urge of regret throughout my body.  I too wished I could stay in bed and sleep the morning away!

With my heavy eyes still tired from the long week, I hurried to get ready so I could stop for my diet coke and still not be late.  Oh, the little things in life…fountain drinks!  Just as I was putting the final touches on my “weekend look” (sweats, sweatshirt, glasses and a touch of mascara) the home phone rang.  “That’s odd.  Who would call this early on a Saturday morning?”  Everyone knows how I like to sleep in and would not dare call at this time!  Maybe it was my husband, Nate, who was out of town calling to check in since he knew I would be in class all day.

As I grabbed the phone, I was surprised to see the caller ID display Casey Bevins.  “That’s weird,” I thought.  I did not even know Casey had my number.  “Why would my cousin from Indiana be calling me this early?”  Maybe good news.  “Another baby?”   I knew he would leave a message and I could check it later since I was already pushing my time limit for getting to class.  The phone rang a second time.  “Casey Bevins,” it read again.  “Maybe the voicemail cut him off,” I thought.   Again, because I was running late and I knew he could leave a message, I did not pick up.

Finally, the phone rang AGAIN!  “Ok, this is NOT good!”  I knew I needed to answer it.  I picked up the phone and on the other line was a female voice saying,  “Angela, I am so sorry to keep calling you this early, but we have a situation here.”  Situation?  I knew immediately that something was wrong and instantly thought of Whitney, my cousin who recently moved to Denver from Indiana.  “Maybe they needed me to check on her.”  For some reason, the word “situation” always stays in my mind from that day,  but the words that followed are somewhat of a blur.  As I paced back and forth, I can remember stopping in my tracks at the top of our stairs.  The sunlight that shined from downstairs soon became darkness as I heard the words, “Terry is dead.”  These words caused me to instantly freeze and my body flooded with emotions!  “How?” I screamed.  “Linda (his wife) found him dead this morning.  He killed himself.”  Immediately I fell to the ground, and a voice of fear and sadness took over.  “NO!  This can’t be happening,” I shouted.  “I’m so sorry,” Sarah kept saying.  “We have been trying to reach your mom and Aunt Kris but no one is answering.  We did not know how else to get in touch with your mom.” I ran downstairs trying to put things into perspective. “Ok, let me call my mom on the other line.”

The next moment is something I replay over and over again.  I wish I had waited to call my mom and instead told her in person that her brother was dead, but the rush of emotions stopped any type of reasoning I may have had.  Never did I imagine that I would have to tell mom this horrific, life changing news.  How do you tell someone that her brother killed himself, especially knowing that her dad had taken his own life 29 years earlier?  My chest began to get heavy as the phone rang at her house.  The cheerful voice on the other end said, “Hi there.”  I froze.  Words would not come out of my mouth.  They got lost in the rush of tears and loud sobs!  “Baby, sweet baby, what is wrong?  I can’t understand you.”  “It’s Terry,”  the words finally rushed out.   Sarah was still listening through the wireless towers connecting us miles and miles apart.  “Mom, Terry killed himself.”  I will never forget those words and the emotions!  My mom was speechless and it was apparent that she too was in a fog of confusion.

As I drove to  mom’s house, it began to sink in that my Uncle Terry was gone and I would never see him enter the room with his big smile and say, “Hey there, how’s it goin?”  Could I just go back to the last time I saw him?  Could I revisit the last lunch at Steak and Shake, when he took time out of his work day to meet mom, Grandma and me?  Could I just return to that final goodbye and embrace his loving arms that much longer?  Could I just go back and take in his laughter and his “Terryisms” one more time?  Why did this have to happen?  Why Terry?  Why did you leave us on this day?  A day that will leave an ache in my heart forever!

The events of that day, the days to follow, and the suicide of my Grandfather when I was only 3 years old, created a desire to share my family’s experience with suicide and help spread awareness.  As a high school teacher, I was able to do this from time to time but it was not enough.

A few months after Terry’s death, I found out about the Out of Darkness Walk.  My aunts and cousins participated in the walk in Indiana and encouraged my mom, brother and I to take part in the annual walk in Highlands Ranch, CO.  So in 2012, the three of us participated and the experience placed a greater desire in my heart to get involved with this specific organization.  It was powerful and it made me realize how many people (too many people) have been impacted by the loss of a loved one to suicide.  The data shared that day was astonishing and the statistics were worse than I originally thought.  “So what can I do?”  That was the question that weighed heavy on my heart.

Due to my busy teaching schedule, my one year old daughter, and simply just letting my “busy” day-to-day life get the best of me, I put the idea of volunteering at the bottom of my list.  Then my family, nine of us, participated in the Out of Darkness Walk this year.  Again, it was a HUGE eye opener for all of us and I knew I could no longer ignore the nudge to get involved, especially since I had left teaching and no longer had that forum to share my experience and spread awareness with our youth.  There was something missing from my life.  The “Making a difference in the world I live in,” was missing.  I used to tell my students on a regular basis, “Those who show up, make the world go round.” So it was time for me to “show up!”

So here I am today, a volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  My first volunteer event, International Day of Suicide Survivors, connected me with this site, StarSpangledBoomerang.com, which pushed me to think about Veterans and suicide.  We have always said that the “Demons from Vietnam” were finally too great for my Uncle Terry to ignore.  As a Marine, Corporal Terry L. Bevins, served one year in Vietnam and witnessed things that I could never imagine.  We learned more of what he endured after his death since he never discussed it with us.  A dear friend of Terry’s shared with his daughter some of the horrific experiences he witnessed while serving his country in Vietnam.   My Grandfather, Corporal Harry L. Bevins, was an Army Veteran and I now wonder if his suicide was connected to what he lived through in World War II.  A lot of “unknowns,” “why” and “If I had only done…!” go hand and hand with suicide.

My goal for myself and others is to learn more about the causes and effects of suicide, and raise awareness one action at a time!  I am excited to see where my volunteer work will go and encourage others to get involved in something that is near and dear to their own heart.  After all, “Those who show up, make the world go round!”

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Angela and her family at the 2014, Out of Darkness Walk.  Angela far left.

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Army Corporal Harry L. Bevins, Jr.

Love  and miss you Uncle Terry and Grandpa!  Angela Olthoff.   Associate Broker from Your Castle Services.  (303)962-4272 ext. 399. yourcastle.org

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http://www.starspangledboomerang.com

18 thoughts on “Never Again-Now is the Time to Take Action and Raise Awareness”

  1. Angela
    This post was beautifully written and brought me much emotion. It is very brave of you and your family to spread awareness and talk about it openly. I think one of the reasons I became a Therapist was to help people with suicidal ideation. As you know, suicide hits so close to home with my Brother and both Uncles. I’m so sorry for your pain and hurt, and pray God continues to give you favor in spreading awareness. You may never know how many people have put aside their plan because you spoke out. Love you darling!

  2. Angela, YOU are on fire! Good for you for bringing this heartbreaking situation to the forefront. Your genuine concern is praiseworthy and insightful! Please know, some comments have been written but not shared at the authors request. This post has made a difference!

  3. Reading the different comments around my blog entry has made me reflect on the importance of community… Whether it be family, friends, a church, work, an organization, a counselor or any type of group where we feel supported. A Community where we can be vulnerable, feel safe and know that we are accepted no matter what. My cousin, Whitney, wrote on her Facebook today a comment that stood out to me “bringing awareness to the taboo subject of suicide and depression.” Why are people so uncomfortable when these topics are brought up? Do we have a community where we can candidly talk about these feelings or are we left feeling alone? How do we connect with a community where there are “judge free zones”? How do we become that community? I have been fortunate and unfortunate to have personally experienced the effects of depression and suicide. Unfortunate, because they are painful. Fortunate, because I am not uncomfortable when the topics come up. I am comfortable bringing them up but know I risk the chance of making someone feeling uncomfortable because it is still seen as a taboo. Yes, society today is a little more open when it comes to discussing these but we still have a ways to go. So what do we need to do to help people connect with a community where they can feel vulnerable and be candid about their feelings of depression and suicide? I wish I had the end all be all solution but I don’t. I do know that part of the solution will need to be taking action and raising awareness! Taking a risk and have those tough conversations around these topics. Reaching out to that person who seems to be struggling. One persons struggle may not seem like a “struggle” to you but it is a struggle to them! Be that community where we feel safe, where we can be vulnerable.

  4. thank you for sharing such an intimate moment with us. God is going to use you to truly help people and to bring healing. You are a courageous bold leader and so proud to call you friend.

    1. I love you Whitney and can only imagine what this was/has been like for you! I will never forget coming to your apartment that day! I also know that this has brought us closer together! I love you!!

  5. I remember this day vividly also and recall many of the same feelings and experiences….almost identical by your description. I had nightmares for a long time. I have dealt with my feelings and emotions and have coped the best I know how.
    As my family knows though being a paramedic and deputy coroner, I deal with death and sadness more than I care to. Bystanders might think that us in ems, fire and police to be careless or heartless if they were to pass by the scene where someone died and see us all joking and laughing. The truth of the matter though is that we see death far too often whether it’s from natural causes or self inflicted (which in my area is quite often and they keep getting younger and younger) and we have to deal with the emotions. So joking around and laughter on a scene such as this may seem cruel, careless, rude, etc…..to some, but to us it’s our way of coping. It’s helpful to have a group to rely on and be able to talk to if need be. Same goes for this organization and any other where you’re able to talk about things that happen in life.
    I am reminded far too much of that day when I respond to people “thinking” about going through with suicide, people that have attempted and failed (call for help) and people that sadly accomplished what they set out to do. I have seen it from ages 11 on up. Those that I come across that talk or “attempt” it, I try and share my experiences and my family experiences with them, hoping that they will take it to heart and understand that they may be ending their pain, but they’re causing a great deal more and that there is help out there if they feel that they need it.
    The fact of life is that suicide will forever be part of this world, it won’t ever stop. But by letting people know that they aren’t alone and there are those of us out there that know their pain and are willing to listen can do wonders. Hopefully along the way we can educate and make people considering doing such a thing think twice. Make those understand that there is hope and help out there and ending ones life is not necessary to make problems go away.
    Great job out Cuz, Aunt Deb and any others spreading awareness!

  6. Thank you, Angela for sharing our loss with so many. I continue to realize how the “hurt” remains…buried deep but surfaces from time to time…to help all us realize we share loss to suicide with so many families…too many. I join you in this journey and am ready to see where and how we are used to bring awareness to suicide to others. No more tragic phone calls for any family! Mom

  7. “Sorry for your loss,” does not seem heartfelt enough to say and terribly mundane, but I am. Suicide is an uncomfortable topic – for the survivors to the family left behind. Thank you for bringing your loved ones to our attention!

  8. Thank you so much for posting this. That day was terrible, but hopefully our experience will touch and save a life. Uncle Terry will always be remembered! Love you sis!!!!!

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