PERSPECTIVES: We can learn so much from one another as we sojourn horizons that both beckon and daunt us. While our general experiences may have general connections, the specificity of our experiences depends on our position, our perception, and how we filter it all. What is this all About?
This grief journey led me back to our family. How do you navigate such a loss? When I nervously asked if they were willing, several vulnerably shared distinctly personal elements of grief, sadness, struggle through this heavy darkness. Each generation recognizing the varying social stigmas of suicide as well as the responses of their closest friends. I am supremely grateful for their honesty. While we share common relationships, every memory is profoundly unique to those who cycle through them; yet, our family’s openness to sharing weaved threads of bravery within me.
“While they spoke, I penned their words…and processed my own.”
– Heidi L. Paulec
When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story. However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives. Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted subsequent oral interviews from their responses. These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person. In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.” Both sections are written in the third person. Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.
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Reflections of the Interview:
Interviewing both my parents were actually the toughest for me. (Heidi) We spoke so many, many times about Jamie and his death… that was actually comfortable. But, the articulating of devastation and the growing difficulty with parenting me after … that was difficult.
Many conversations fuse to make up these reflections for which I am profoundly thankful.
My Mom’s desire to comfort … as her daughter numbed into a distance… she longed & tried every way she could think to reach in.
I’m so grateful she didn’t give up on me. Her answers on the surveys were thorough and easy to discuss. And her enduring commitment to help me realize… I still have a pulse; I’m still breathing… Thank you is inadequate, Mom… but, we’ll start there.
Aunt Karen is both sister to Jamie’s Mom, Kathy, as well as sister-in-law through her husband (Uncle Tim) to Jamie’s Dad, Carlton. These two sisters married brothers in the early 1970’s. And she is Heidi’s Mom. During the first five years of Jamie and Heidi’s lives, they lived in the same rural community in southeast Wyoming. Jamie’s parents lived on the same homestead as Grandpa Ken & Grandma Phyllis (Karen & Kathy’s parents).
Aunt Karen highly values excellence, order, education, making memories and creating a welcoming home. Friends of the family enjoy teasing her by finger-printing doors and windows… wondering how quickly she’ll notice. Aunt Karen loved Edith Schaeffer’s What is a Family? She’s a keeper of memories & a creator of traditions. She fosters remembering past family legacies while envisioning a huge family reunion in heaven one day. Along with her own family and childhood with the richness of grandparents, Aunt Karen prioritized a tidy home, making memories with extended family, and educational and social endeavors.
She chose to stay home with Heidi until she was school age. At which time, Aunt Karen began volunteering at the hospital in Cheyenne, Wyoming where Jamie & Heidi (and Karen & Kathy’s siblings were born there) as well as at the school Heidi attended. She worked part time for husband Tim throughout the years. When they moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, she again volunteering. This time at Heidi’s middle school. Eventually, she moved into human resources of a large public school system where she worked for several years.
She’s always been a celebrator of seasons. She’s an intentional homemaker, reader of biographies, collector tea cups, and most detailed oriented Grammie around.
And honestly, Aunt Karen isn’t adequate to describe her relation to Jamie… He was like a son to her, and she like a second-mom to him.
“…How sweet to hold
A newborn baby
And feel the pride
And joy he gives
But greater still
The calm assurance
This child can face
Just Because he lives.”
Because He Lives (verse 2)
Bill Gaither, Guy Penrod
Going back to 1973-74, I’m reminded with gratefulness of the Lord generosity to our family. Tim and I were married in 1971. Not long after, we were ready to start a family of our own. However, this turned out to be much more difficult than either of us imagined. Tim, second-born of five, and I (second-born of four) both envisioned having a large family one day. I couldn’t wait to decorate for the seasons and find ways to celebrate God’s Goodness every day. Tim, being the all-star athlete and studying to be a social studies teacher with phys.ed. emphasis as well, looked forward to an active family.
By late 1973, I wondered if something might be wrong… we longed for children. We had hopes for children. And Tim, well, children loved him. But, not yet.
Our whole family was so excited to hear the news of Kathy’s pregnancy. I was overjoyed for them. And so grateful that not long after, we announced what-would-become my only pregnancy. How generous is the Lord! Kathy and I got to walk through these pregnancies together which included a hot summer.
The wonder of a late summer rain on the plains where I grew up… is the scent of rain. The deep grey-blue taking over the vast sky with ever- approaching streaks… and that fresh fragrance…
God’s rich blessings rained down on our family during the autumn of 1974. When Jamie was born… I’ll never forget holding him and loving him instantly like I’d never loved anyone before. And seven weeks later when Heidi arrived, I know Kathy felt the same about her. They looked so much alike. Jamie’s face a little rounder. Heidi’s more oblong. Jamie’s hair grew in faster. Both of them got the family curls. These two kids had the same family history… same grandparents on both sides of the family. The same aunts & uncles and cousins, too. But their kinship… so much more.
continued… Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 2)