Thank you to gMum (and good friend!) Amelia for sharing a piece of her story.
Cancer is a monster with its own agenda. But my mother fought the good fight until the very end when it just took over December 14, 2007. The following days, weeks and months were a blur. I know I made it to work after the first of the year, cared for my preschooler, and I started volunteering thinking it would help me by helping others. I went through a wonderful training but by the end of it I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me at the time. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fulfill the duties required of the position.
It was Easter at my aunt and uncle’s to celebrate the day, which felt like a chore but it led to a conversation with my cousin, Shawn, about her job. She was working at a crisis helpline, while also facilitated a support group for survivors of suicide (those that have lost a loved one to suicide) and she mentioned they had a volunteer class coming up. I followed up with the lead, had an interview and I was in! It was one of the most intense, informative and one of the most healing experiences I’ve ever had. The instructor was this well-versed, passionate and encouraging former Marine. We learned the ins and outs of the model that we would soon put to use, we learned of the issues that we may hear about and most importantly we pulled from our own experiences to practice.
Upon graduation of the class we signed up for weekly shifts, thanked our instructor and said our goodbyes. I loved volunteering on the crisis helpline, I loved hearing the difference a few words and resources could make in a person’s life. A few months had passed and I was feeling more confident and in control, so, we started to clean up our mother’s house. It was cathartic doing this with my sisters, we went through her things while laughing, sighing and crying with minimal outbursts. Once things were settled at the house, I applied for a position at the crisis helpline and was hired. I worked contingent hours here and there in between my full time job and mothering my son.
In the spring of 2009 I met the man who would become my husband and the sun was starting to become a bit brighter. I felt like I could breathe again without every breath hurting from the grief I was working through. We spent much of our free time together, he met my family and I met his. During that time I was promoted to a full time coordinator position on the crisis line. The summer was beautiful, relaxed and for the first time in what seemed like forever I felt like life was worth living. That’s how my mother would have wanted it.
She wouldn’t have wanted her death to define me, to consume my days and nights. She would have wanted me to find my passion, to fall in love with a man deserving of my heart and to raise a beautiful family. She loved her family, friends and life, including the sorrow but mostly the joys. She would have wanted me to enjoy the joys of laying out on a warm summer day, of making the perfect batch of fudge (I still need to perfect this) and of hugging my children. While cancer is a monster with its own agenda that ultimately took the life of my mother, cancer is also the gift that led me to where I am today. And, while I still yearn daily for my mother, I am thankful to be where I am now and it still takes my breath away that just 5 years ago we were facing that cancerous monster head on.
Amelia Lehto is currently The Crisis Line Supervisor and Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Common Ground. She provides crisis intervention and Applied Suicide Intervention Training Skills (ASIST)/SuicideTALK trainings for community members in the public and private sectors and supervises volunteers on the crisis telephone line. She is also a team leader on Common Ground’s Crisis Response Team, a board member on the Oakland County Crisis Response Organization. She’s a wife, a mama to 2 boys, a daughter, a sister and a gMum, and we at g are so very grateful to have her in our lives.