Drew Gladstone was my nephew. My sister, Tammy, is fifteen years younger than me. My children were much older and so it was nice to have babies around again when Tammy had her children. I loved them like they were my own.
When I think back, I would never have believed that Drew would have the slightest thoughts of taking his own life. He was funny. He could always make us laugh. He was serious when he needed to be. He was smart. He loved sports. He played football until his knees were in such bad shape that he couldn’t play anymore. He was never lazy. He would work harder than anyone his age I had ever seen.
He always helped my mom with her yard because she was elderly and needed the help. She couldn’t pay him. He did it because he loved her; she was his G-ma as he called her. Smitty, my husband, hired Drew every year because he was such a great help with our yard, opening and maintaining our pool throughout the summer. Smitty depended on Drew because he knew he could. He was always involved in our lives in one way or another. He also had a job at Zaxby’s. He was in school at Athens Tech. Why do I say all these things? Because he was a typical young man. He had goals. He had plans.
I knew what I was feeling and it hurt so badly, but this was her baby and I knew she hurt so much worse. I went to some doctor’s appointments with her and to meetings at Nuci’s Space with her, but that seemed so small. I prayed for her. I found out that my sister is a very strong person.
She will tell you she isn’t, but what I saw was strength. She made herself do so many things when I knew it would have been easier for her to stay home. Shortly after Drew died, a friend also lost her child to suicide. I debated and debated about going to the funeral home and I just didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t go, but I found out later that Tammy went to the funeral home and spoke with the family. I can only imagine how hard that was for her. I was so proud of her for that and I know it meant a lot to that family as well.
Drew will be in our hearts forever. It has been over four years now since he died and we still miss him dearly. All holidays and other family get-togethers, we think of him. Every year when we open the pool, we think of him. So many times just in normal conversation, he comes up. Why he made the decision he did, we may never know.
We do know the pain and emptiness suicide leaves. Our hope and prayer is to help others avoid this pain and emptiness in their lives. “Life is a precious gift. Once shared, it will never be forgotten.