As we expand our blog topics and contributors, we present “A Last Chance To Speak.”  Andrea is a mental health expert who some of you may remember as our support expert on our suicide event. This  is an area that RV will be sneaking into in the coming years.  Andrea shares an insightful perspective on courage, making a difference, honoring a life by raising awareness. And most of all, a great closing line for all of us to keep in mind.

 The Last Chance to Speak


Scrolling through the obituaries recently, I came across one of a young man, 30 years old who left behind a wife of only three years. What was more striking than his new marriage or his young age was that his family took the time to include that he had lost a battle with depression.  I do think this is unusual, rarely does anything but obscurity occur in an obituary. Typically we read “passed suddenly“or “passed away with loved ones by their side.“ I do understand funeral homes have a template that provides families literary support in this time of grief. It may be all someone can do under stress, filling in blanks and choosing from pre-made statements that summarize their loved ones life.  This young man’s family in particular wanted to make sure that other people could learn from these last words about his life and his battle with mental health. From this senseless act, someone else reading the obituary might change the course of action they started that day. It brings me to think, why is this not a cultural norm?

Why is it that obituaries are so obscure? Why is it that we do not take the opportunity to leave a legacy behind in this last opportunity to speak up about our life?  We have the opportunity to teach lessons and offer the next generation a sample of the obstacles that can be overcome.  But also, that with death comes the price of regret, retrospect, and finality. For example, at 100 years old a woman might be able to tell you that she regrets leaving behind a marriage a half century ago because she spent the remainder of it alone. A gentleman who lived to the age of 85 may print in his obituary he has 50 years of sobriety to thank. A 40 year old who loses their life to breast cancer may advise you to spend every minute with your kids and less money on coffee. After passing from liver cancer a man may print his regret of never meeting his grandchildren because he chose drugs over his family. With the staggering rate of teen drug use and suicide, a parent that shares their loss with the truth,  “he lost a battle with mental health, we urge you as parents to look for the signs we missed.” These statements do not lead me to disrespect this person’s life, but instead remind me they lived and pass on a message for others to learn from.

In my job role, I am fortunate to be in contact every day with people aged 19 to 105. I have learned so many life lessons in my daily interactions I couldn’t imagine any other job. I would love everyone to have this gift. The stigma that the obituary is a place to show only vague respect for a life such as “she loved gardening.” should change to “she drove the same car for 50 years and would advise; don’t waste your money on fancy cars.” In all seriousness we owe the subsequent generations the opportunity to see mistakes and triumphs and the many reasons to live and pursue life.

In all honesty, I wish I had not read the young man’s obituary I referred to, he was a great friend who left this world too soon and I cherish the time I had with him. I salute his family for making the selfless decision to be open about his passing so other lives may be saved. I thank them for giving him this last chance to speak up and make an impact in someone’s life. Please take the time to discuss with family and friends how a life should be summarized and comment below what life lessons you might include or would want to pass on to other readers and generations to come. We all have to keep learning from each other and keep the conversation about mental health going.

It takes a village to stop the stigma.

Reprinted with Permission