My name is Kevin, and life changed forever on the night of December 4, 2009. That was the night that I received a call telling me that my son had died of a drug overdose in San Diego. He was 23. My wife and I still had three children under the age of eighteen living with us at the time, and we started to notice changes in their behavior after our son died. A friend of my wife’s told her about The WARM Place and we started attending in the spring of 2010. We were there for about a year and a half and I will always be thankful for the help that we received.
After we left The WARM Place, I got busy building a wall, but it wasn’t a physical wall, like the wall of a building, or the Great Wall of China. It was a wall around my heart. The pain of my son’s death was deeper than anything I had ever experienced and I didn’t want to ever feel that pain again, so I started to build an emotional wall around my heart to protect myself. I went to work, and I would just come home and read my books, listen to my music, or watch DVD’s. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to make friends, and I even started to distance myself from my children and my grandchildren. I told myself that I was doing it for “them,” that way if something should happen to me it would be easier for them to accept my loss.
In spite of all this “mess” that I had inside of me, in the fall of 2013 I made the decision to become a volunteer at The WARM Place. I still don’t know why, but I did. I thought that I had my “stuff” pretty much together and that I could help out and still remain emotionally distant and not get involved. I would help with the crafts, put in my two cents worth every now and then, and be there if any discipline was needed. In the spring of 2014 I had been volunteering for about six or seven months and everything was going according to my plan……until one Thursday night that I will never forget.
I went to our room after dinner, and as usual I was the last one to enter. There was this young girl, who for some reason had taken to me during the last few meetings. I don’t know why because I never gave her any reason to want to, but she would always come and sit by me. The meeting was going well, my co-facilitators Toni and Brenda were doing their usual awesome job and I was there in the background, so far, so good….., but then this young girl grabbed my arm, put her head on my shoulder, looked up at me and said, “I’m glad you’re my friend.” Without meaning to and I am sure that to this day she doesn’t realize what she did, she put a crack in the wall that I had spent the last few years building. The damage to the wall couldn’t be fixed; she had dealt it a death blow.
After that meeting I did a lot of thinking on my way home and realized that the only way to remove the pain from death is to remove love from life. I had been doing that for the last few years and I didn’t want to live that way anymore. The next day I called all three of my daughters and we had a Daddy-Daughter date night. I took them out to eat, gave each of them a rose, and then we went to see a movie. After they all went home, the wall that I had worked so hard to build finally collapsed, and I cried and cried and cried some more. I hadn’t been able to do that since my son died.
All this happened because a young girl had the courage to reach out to me. This was one of those times where the so-called “healer” became the “healed.”
Since that night I have spent less and less time at home, I have become a better father, grandfather, friend, and I hope a better person.
The name of this girl is Lizzie Mitchell and she is a special young lady. She doesn’t even realize all of the lives that she has touched at such a young age. She gave me back my life and I hope that in some small way I can help her regain hers.
-Kevin Saunders, Guest Blogger and Volunteer Facilitator for The WARM Place