My mother’s suicide didn’t define how she lived

by Brynne Weaver

Barbara Ann DeTurk Weaver 05/18/1960 – 08/25/2005

The thing about suicide is: everyone assumes everything was bad.

This assumption has bothered me for years. The day of my mom’s funeral – where the air was filled with an insurmountable heaviness, “So sorry, so terribly sorry, we never knew, we never thought….”

Yes, well. Neither did we.

My mom was extroverted, fun. She was loud, loved to laugh, and smoke and drink. She loved pranks. She loved her ’80s hair (long after the ’80s) and bright red lipstick. She loved us. She showered us daily in her love: she would have done anything for us. Anything.

My 11 years of memories of her are filled with so much laughter, joy, and love.

Dancing in our kitchen to Elton John and belting out Chicago, feeding the ducks, countless McDonald’s drive-thru breakfasts, summer vacations in Florida and Nags Head, playing basketball, and running around the woods with us. Always with her 35mm camera and camcorder in hand.

She documented everything.

We have photo albums dating from the 1970s – 2005, the year she died. One for each year, sometimes more. She documented her pregnancy with me in a journal. My dad gave it to me a few years ago. “Dear Baby, oh my how you love Taco Bell!” She kept up with this journal even after my birth, adding a page every couple of years.

One of her last entries was from 2004, “You often speak of going to live in New York or Paris, and I believe that one day you will.”

I will never truly understand the pain my mom went through. I will never forget the most horrible day of my life, losing her, finding her. Sometimes, I wonder, is this the price for all the good? The ultimate childhood for the most horrific adolescence? In order to give, life has to take.

Suicide does not mean everything was terrible all the time. It does not mean the home was toxic or seething with darkness (though this can be true – and there were moments). It means that even functioning, loving, caring individuals can be deeply sick.

I think this is something more understood now than in 2005. And I hope it continues to be understood.

I consider myself incredibly lucky, and grateful, to have had her as my mama. I wish everyday she was still around, skipping around Paris with me with that big Barbara smile. I know she would have loved it here. For now, all I can hope is that I can carry on her legacy, share her poetry and photographs, and keep her alive through me, pulsing through my veins with love and laughter.

In the words of Mary Oliver, “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

11 thoughts on “My mother’s suicide didn’t define how she lived”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this, Brynne. You’re Mom was such a good friend to me. She taught me much about motherhood and persistently invited me to Tuesday Morning Bible Study until I joined. The many shenanigans on missions trips with her are cherished memories. Thanks again,
    Anne-Louise

  2. Brynne
    I had the pleasure of knowing your mom and all of you for that matter. I worked at your dental office back then and loved your Mom and her upbeat spirit. And I also remember your oldest brother , how he adored you and how happy he was to see you. That tribute to your Mom is amazing, wonderful and warm. She has imprinted on you all in such a positive way that her legacy has no choice but to live on through all of you. Much love and thank you for sharing .

  3. Brynne,

    What a beautiful and truthful portrait of your mom and the life you shared with her. She was such a blessing to me and my whole family and I always remember her huge smile and her genuine laugh (and her 80s hair!!). She was contagiously happy – it’s true. I know she would be proud of what a talented and brave woman you are- just like she was. Thank you for this wonderful memory of her.

  4. I had the privilege of knowing Barbara from attending Tuesday morning Bible Study. She was beautiful, always smiling and was always upbeat. She had the most wonderful laugh and it was contagious. She was beautiful inside and out. We all were saddened that she left us so early.

  5. Brynn,
    What a beautiful tribute to your Mom. She would be so proud of you as are we. We’ve kept up with you through your Dad. You are a precious gift. I know this article will touch so many lives.

  6. Dear Brynne,
    Your tribute to your mom was so touching. Barbara was so full of life and made me smile every time I was with her. Her personality was contagious ! She was beautiful inside and out.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts
    and feelings with us. I agree that it’s easy for some people to hide their struggles. We truly never know until it’s too late. I also pray that our society
    continues to understand .
    I always knew you were strong and I’ll pray that you continue to do well and flourish. Sounds like your heart is as big as your Mom’s was.
    Please continue to share your thoughts and poetry with us.
    Love,
    Gwen Lawson

  7. Brynn-
    An old friend forwarded your article to me today… the day after Mother’s Day. I saw the photo of you and your mom and felt an immediate deep lump in my throat. Though I did not call her mom… your mother was a dear friend to my parents, my childhood babysitter, and a big part of my formative years. I was always in awe of her beauty and contagious smile and laugh. She would be so proud of you… your strength, your bravery, and your beauty. Thank you for sharing such a painful and vulnerable part of your life. It makes me want to ensure that my 3 kids… two older boys and a girl, just like you Weaver kids, feel my love for them each day. Thank you! Much love!
    Anna Hershman Laughlin

  8. Brynne,
    Your Mama was a rockstar.
    She was amazing, and everything in between! I have never had so much fun with someone…and, oh, her laugh! She would laugh and giggle and laugh some more…and, I was nowhere near her age; but, we always had a blast!

    I agree with everything you wrote. Barbara gave me so much, and for those times, I am grateful!! Thank you for writing this. It is truly wonderful to hear you are doing well!

    Much love,
    Kathryn

  9. Brynn,
    Thank you for your lovely and full perspective as an adult of life and death. So many including me loved your mom and she adored you! She loved life with joy which she shared. I was your pediatrician and she took VERY good care of you!

  10. What a beautiful commentary of your mom. It mirrors the feelings I have about our son. He took his life October 18, 2019. He was a gifted physician married to the love of his life, had an amazing sense of humor and so full of compassion for others. His memorial was attended by many of his dear friends and colleagues who traveled from all over the country to honor him. Until the last two months of his life he was, we all thought, on top of the world. He was living the dream he had worked so hard for for so many years. Looking back I think he had underlying anxiety for a while but he hid it so well. He was quite a perfectionist and I think that came into play as well. We adored him and know he loved us deeply. His inner darkness became too overwhelming, all encompassing. He lived a full and beautiful life that was cut way too short by this illness. I miss him so terribly much.

  11. Brynn,
    This tribute to Barbara is beautiful! I have so many great memories of our fun times together! We lived near her when y’all were babies and she loved you so much!! She was so full of love and life!! I think of her often!
    Love, Ginny Good

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