[Note: A version of this story appears in Faces of Suicide, Volume 4]
Remembering Jon: Here one Day, Gone the Next
Sweet. Gentle Soul. Big Hearted. A Big Kid. Generous. These are all words that have been used to describe Jon. Let me tell you about my dear son …
Jonathan was a planned pregnancy and a repeat C-section, and was born the morning of October 1, 1976. I wasn’t sure if his name would be “Jordan” or “Jonathan,” but the first time I nursed him, I knew he was Jonathan. Or Jon, which I favored. Or Jonny, a name his sister used immediately.
Being a Kid
Jon was a happy baby, with an infectious laugh. And, even as a very young child, he had some strange and endearing behaviors.
When we started giving him solid food, he'd make his preferences known. If he found a certain food really yummy he'd hum as he was eating it.
While at a family dinner, Jonny (around 3 or 4 years old) asked for a second helping of cheesecake. I said, “Oh, you really liked that didn’t you?” and he responded, “Well, I wasn’t humming, was I?” I guess asking for seconds didn’t necessarily mean he really liked it. Ha! It seems he knew (and embraced?) some of his idiosyncrasies.
Jon seemed to feel safe in small, enclosed spaces. In fact, when his dad came home from work at dinnertime he’d ask where Jon was and I often replied, “Still in his crib.” Although I tried to take him out after his nap, he fussed but smiled contentedly when placed back in the crib for another hour or two or three!
As a young child, he continued to seek out small spaces, and we’d often find him curled up asleep in his closet.
Super Neat and Very Curious
Always very neat, Jon liked things organized in exactly the right way. When he was just a toddler riding in my shopping cart, he made an upset noise as he pointed to a box of Frosted Flakes that was sitting in with the boxes of Cheerios. He needed order in his environment and I had to move the Frosted Flakes to its rightful place.
Beginning at pre-school age, Jon frequently asked neighbors and family members if they had anything that was “bwoken,” because he loved taking things apart (like TVs or refrigerators) to see what was inside. Although fascinated with the inner workings, he had no interest in putting them back together.
Jon was curious about other inner things too. He removed the foot-high flagstones surrounding our large backyard, wanting to see what was underneath. Much to our dismay, however, he had no idea how to stack them back up. Jon did this not once, but two or three times.
Not only did Jon have a lot of curiosity as a child, but he also had a lot of strength. I vividly remember one time that I talked on the phone (for probably too long) and Jon played in the downstairs playroom. By the time I got off the phone, I was aghast to see that he had moved every piece of furniture against the steps. How could such a little kid move all the furniture? Somehow we managed to get down the stairs and move everything back.
In addition, Jon moved all the furniture in his room, too, more than once, even as a wee little kid. Sometimes, angry with his parents, he’d move all the furniture to the doorway so we couldn’t enter. Even later as an adult, he continued rearranging furniture – his roommate said he’d come home more than once to a totally rearranged bedroom.
More about Jonny…
Jon had delayed language development and displayed symptoms of aphasia, which is a language disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate. He could recognize faces but couldn’t remember the names attached to those faces. So he called Lisa, the teen who babysat every Saturday night for several years, “Babysitter.” Jon knew that Aunt Judy and Uncle Denny were a couple, but somehow he couldn’t remember Judy’s name and called her “Unk Denny.” And more than once he’d get his Aunt Bonnie’s attention by yelling, “Hey Lady.”
Even as a small child, Jon exhibited a lot of fears. When he went for kindergarten registration, for instance, they wanted to test his hearing. He screamed and carried on because he was afraid of the earphones and refused to put them on. In addition, I remember the many times he ran away from meat the medical office (and I had to chase him through the lobby) because he didn’t want to see the doctor.
I think Jon’s happiest times were pre-kindergarten age. Photos of him show a happy, laughing child, filled with energy and mischief. I couldn’t leave him alone for a minute when he was under the age of 4 or 5 because he’d get into trouble BIG TIME.
Once Jon got to kindergarten, some of his happy carefreeness disappeared. A few classmates made fun of him. He still liked to suck his thumb and when he did, his first finger gravitated into his nose. Some of the kids started calling him “Booger” and that name stuck for years, as did other unfavorable names such as “Loser.”
In the years since, I have forgiven these kids for their bullying although it still makes me sad. My belief is that before Jon incarnated he decided that he wanted to learn self-love and he asked his soul family to play different roles. These kids (while they were in spirit form) volunteered to help by becoming his classmates and calling him names. Although Jon’s soul set it up this way, once he was in physical form he bought into the bullying and, unfortunately, believed he was a loser. How sad.
Trained to work with learning disabilities, I had prayed to not have an LD child because I knew their challenges and frustrations. But Jon turned out to be both ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and LD. When Jon entered the first grade, I made sure he had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to help him manage in school.
Even with the IEP, however, Jon found school challenging and did not do well. We spent many evenings going over the spelling words for the week, for instance, but he just couldn’t retain the information and always did poorly on the spelling tests.
I thought school would be a more pleasant experience for him if he got involved in extracurricular activities. I should have listened to him when he said he didn’t want to do after school basketball – I signed him up anyway but he just sat on the sidelines. He tried soccer, and that was okay. Of all the activities, he liked baseball the best. He really enjoyed the thrill of getting a hit, but when he was in the field, his mind wandered and he forgot to chase after the ball. Although he was right-handed, he batted leftie: a sign of mixed dominance, which is often associated with developmental delays.
While in elementary school, Jon received some help with a speech therapist for his speech impediment. He had a lisp and had trouble pronouncing some words. The speech therapy worked and people could understand him better.
I also enrolled him in drum lessons and he had fun with that. It was fun for me too, to watch him grinning ear to ear as he banged away mercilessly on the drum set. I was glad it wasn’t in my house!
But it seems, he never seemed to quite fit in. He didn’t have much confidence in himself, and it broke my heart. I saw his sweetness, his good heart, and his desire for acceptance. Yes, he received love and praise at home, but got a different message from some of his peers at school. Because of his poor grades and the words of his classmates, Jon took on core beliefs such as “I am not enough” and “I am stupid.”
In upper elementary school Jon had two friends, both named Danny, and he liked to hang out with them. But they often got in trouble. Like the day they walked over to a new house being built and thought it would be fun to throw rocks at the windows that were lined up on the ground ready to be installed. I heard the crash a street away! Jon got in big trouble and had to make payments for the damage.
Maybe that’s when Jon’s dad and I decided he needed to see a psychotherapist. Jon went every week for a while but he didn’t want to talk very much. After many months of seemingly no progress, therapy was discontinued.
When Jon was in 7th grade, our whole family – Lenny (his dad), Ali (his sister, 3 years older), and I – traveled to the Sierra Tucson Treatment Center. We did a “family week” there to try to solve some of our familial problems. During the week, Jon met and became infatuated with two cute twins from California. These girls said they would be back to the Sierra Tucson adolescent unit when it opened in a few months. Both Ali and Jon said they wanted to come back too.
Several months later, I caught Jon and Danny drinking in the woods behind our house. I remembered that Jon had said he wanted to return to Sierra Tucson. I saw this as my opportunity to pull him out of the challenging situation he was in. Kids at school still saw him as a loser, and he continued to make poor choices with his friends Danny and Danny.
I quickly made the arrangements and flew him out to the adolescent treatment center. His dad and I didn’t necessarily think he really had a drinking problem, but as parents we knew something had to change and we latched onto this. Sure enough, although everyone in his group introduced themselves saying, “Hi, my name is ___________ and I’m an alcoholic,” Jon said, “Hi, my name is Jon and I am a potential alcoholic.” Ha!
Jon liked being in Tucson and he seemed to like being with the kids at the treatment center, even though the twins didn’t come. Upon his completion, the advisors helped us choose the next best step for him. We agreed on the Kildonan School in upstate New York, which focuses on each student’s gifts rather than their shortcomings.
What a great choice! Kildonan was life changing for him. This school serves dyslexic students, and the dorms were even named after famous people with dyslexia, such as Hans Christian Anderson and Amy Lowell. Jon blossomed; he took to heart that he was dyslexic and not stupid, and discovered that he was really smart in math and sciences.
Post High School
After high school Jon decided to move to Tucson and live with his newly divorced sister and her 2-year-old daughter, Jordan. (Her name was a total coincidence – Ali had no idea that I had considered naming her brother “Jordan.”)
A loving, caring uncle, he helped take care of his niece when Ali was in school. When Ali got involved in a relationship and moved in with her boyfriend, Jon moved in with me.
He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Because he always loved Florida, Jon decided to enroll in Lynn University in Boca Raton, but it wasn't a fit for him and he dropped out. Then he discovered a 2-year associate degree program in CAD (computer assisted drafting) in his beloved Florida, and he enrolled.
September 14, 2001. Graduation day. The world had turned topsy-turvy on Sept. 11th and I was hoping flights would be re-instated so that I could attend Jon’s graduation, a momentous occasion. Lenny got in his car (in Cleveland OH) and drove down to Florida. I got on the first plane to leave Tucson after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and walked in just as the students were lining up to march down the aisle. It was a happy, proud day for all of us.
The job market had dried up after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and Jon couldn’t find employment. He decided to move back to Tucson, live with me and look for work. Although a job almost materialized, it didn’t. It was hard for him to live with me – Jon was an adult and I tried to help but he often perceived it as meddling in his life.
Jon’s friend Dave invited him to come back to Florida – to live and work with him there. Jon and Dave had good times together and then, when Dave got married and had stepchildren, they all lived together in a big house in Celebration, Florida. Jon was thrilled. He lived with people who really loved and cared about him and he got to go to his favorite places all the time – Disney, Epcot and Universal.
After a year of being together, Dave and his family moved to another state and Jon found an apartment outside Orlando and a CAD job. He still loved to visit Universal and Disney and eagerly took guests there whenever he could.
Because Jon said he wanted company and wanted to take people to the places he loved, I organized a visit with a group of my friends and their kids. He arranged for a VIP tour of Universal and proudly showed off what seemed like his home – Universal and the other parks. Jon was in his element!
In addition, his friend Lenay would fly in from Phoenix with her son and they’d spend time at the parks. Although Jon was chronologically a grown-up, he still had a lot of kid in him.
Some of Jon’s most cherished moments revolved around adventure and escape. In particular, he prized his Bar Mitzvah trip to Egypt and Israel. He loved his summer trip with youths to Israel, valued the once-in-a-lifetime experience swimming and playing with a wild dolphin in Belize, and proudly helped his nieces go shelling in Jamaica. High up on that list, however, was his fascination and wonder with Universal Studios and Disney World. Places like the Islands of Adventure and the Magic Kingdom stoked his imagination and fueled his curiosity for adventure. Yes, Jonny was simply a kid living in the body of a thirty-five year old.
Several times a year, Jon flew to Tucson to visit me and especially his sister and her family. Perhaps his greatest adventure was spending time being an uncle to her kids – Jordan, Rylee, Zoe, Talia, Rorie, and Ashton. Ali recognized that her brother had an uncommon ability – as a single man – to be unaffected by all of the madness, chaos, messiness, and disarray that accompanies life with little ones.
Whenever he’d come in, his nieces would fight over him – all wanting Uncle Jonny time. He loved the attention, he loved being with them, and they adored him.
Jon prided himself on his ability to handle babies and little kids. When Dave and his wife Sheila had twin daughters Jon called me and boasted: “I did it, Mom. I held one crying baby in one arm and the other crying baby in the other arm and they both calmed down and stopped crying. I still have the magic touch!”
He loved being with kids and was so good with them. In many ways, he grew up with Ali’s children – particularly Jordan, who was born when he was still a teenager. She had him wrapped around her little finger; he loved taking her to the parks in Orlando and he’d buy just about anything she wanted.
In addition to being with the family, whenever Jon visited us in Tucson, he’d also visit Lenay and her son – either she’d drive down from Phoenix or he’d go there.
Jon loved nice things and was a consumer of the highest order, purchasing quality furniture and quality clothing for himself and others. He loved plasma TVs, his Tempurpedic bed at my house, being first to view the opening of a hyped sci-fi movie, seeing if he could get an upgrade on a flight he was soon to be boarding, and eating out at expensive Sunday brunches. Although the humming had long ago stopped, we could still see the intense pleasure food gave Jon, and he loved going out to eat. When he visited us in Tucson, Ali wanted to cook meals for the family and Jon would insist that he take them all out to dinner.
In many ways, Jon had a beautiful generosity of spirit. He remembered anniversaries and birthdays and would do anything for anyone. Not only would he call me on Mother’s Day, but he would also call his aunts, his sister, his grandma and any other mothers he felt close to.
Jon was still meticulously compulsive about making order in his life. He had a huge – and organized – collection of CDs and loved gadgetry like the compact DVD player he took on flights, and the PlayStation and X-Box games he'd routinely play. He even loved all those games – like Farmville – that you can play on Facebook.
The games were another kind of escape and adventure for him. He enjoyed challenging himself, celebrating even small victories. Once, he took the Tony Robbins “Unleash the Power Within” course. Jon was so proud of himself that he walked across fire coals with his bare feet. I can still picture the huge grin on his face whenever he boasted about it.
Although I urged him to get involved in other personal growth activities, the Tony Robbins workshop was the only one he ever attended. My heart ached knowing that Jon had few friend and few enjoyments other than video games, new movies, and theme parks. I could sense his loneliness, although he always said he was “fine.” Feeling frustrated with my inability to help, I suggested that Jon find a hobby or take some classes or join the local synagogue to meet other young people his age, but he didn’t.
As a Libra, Jon sought to enhance the relationships he had with friends and family. He often expressed love as a son, brother, uncle, grandson, and nephew, but he also wished to express love in personal relationships (beyond family), which, unfortunately, eluded him.
When the recession hit, Jon was laid off from his CAD job. Although he had some money to tide him over, he immediately started to look for another job – which never came to fruition. Without work keeping him tied to Florida, he travelled more often to Arizona to visit family in Tucson and his friend in Phoenix.
September 2011. When Jon came to Tucson to visit family again, we had no idea that he came to say “good-bye.” He celebrated Jordan’s birthday and hung out with the family, and Lenay and her son came down to visit.
Although I knew that he owned a gun, I bought his story that it made him feel safer since he lived in a first floor apartment. Reading his journals, I discovered that Jon had thought about suicide ever since he was a teen. He said he didn’t like himself, thought he was ugly, and many times wrote about ending his life.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011. That morning, Jon sent texts to family and friends telling us, “I just wanted to let you know that I love you.” Totally unaware of what this might mean, I simply wrote back and said, “Thank you, I love you too.” Alison, however, felt concerned and asked if it was a suicide message. He assured her it was not, and he reassured her by discussing the restaurants they’d go to in a few weeks when he returned to Tucson.
Monday, October 17, 2011. Dave, Jon’s best friend, called Ali because he was worried that he hadn’t heard from Jon all weekend. It was unlike Jon to not return his calls or texts. I wasn’t concerned, convincing myself that Jon pulled a “Jonny” and decided to go to Las Vegas or something and knew we’d be upset that he was wasting the little money he had left. Alison, on the other hand, felt frantic and called her dad, Lenny, to send someone to investigate. Lenny called the apartment manager. When they opened Jon’s apartment door, they found his body.
We learned later that on October 12th Jon had packed up his whole apartment, sent the texts, wrote a suicide note, and then shot himself in the heart.
Although he had told everyone and probably tried to convince himself that Lenay was just a good friend, he had hoped for more. She got married on October 7th and he chose to end his earthly existence 5 days later.
Jon left a suicide note that said, in part:
“I, Jonathan Hershey Beck, decided the time has come for me to die. I am doing this because there is nothing left for me… I do not want a new job. I do not want to move to a new city. I do not want new friends. I am ready to move on beyond this human form to whatever exists after…I am not killing myself because I am depressed, sad, or lonely, or anything else along those lines. I am doing so because I feel it is time to move on. I have been debating this for some time now….”
Although our family is not religious, I am very spiritual and believe that we incarnate many times in different bodies and that our soul exists after our body has died. I had no idea that Jon believed any of this.
“To Mom and Dad, I love you very much. Please do not blame yourselves for my actions. You two did a wonderful job raising me and I am grateful for having such loving wonderful people in my life….
It’s nice to hear that Jon didn’t blame us, his parents, but it’s hard for any parent not to blame oneself after a suicide. I had repeated thoughts of, “If only I had _____.” Yet I am grateful that I never thought that Jon’s choice to end his life was my fault.
“To my amazing sister, I leave knowing that your girls will grow up to be such amazing women that will make you proud to be their mother. You have done such an amazing job raising them. Please tell them that Uncle Jon will always love them.
“To my friend Dave…you have always been a good friend to me. Sorry I was unwilling to tell you what was going on in my life…
“To Lenay – you were a good friend of mine…. As I have said many times in the past and it still remains true to this day, I will always love you.”
Oct. 17th, mid-afternoon, I received the worst news of my life when I picked up the phone and heard Lenny screaming over and over, “He’s dead, he’s dead!” I shrieked, I wailed. I somehow managed to dial the phone and tell my good friends what had happened and they rushed to my side.
Although I don’t particularly believe in hell, I started to worry that maybe I was wrong and Jon would go to hell. I asked my spiritual teacher friend, Morgan. She assured me that God is a loving God and there is no such thing as hell. Her words comforted me.
Several of my friends (Robin, Dana, Carol, Barbara) have abilities of a medium. Through them Jon conveyed the following info…
Jon said that he was glad that no one found his body right away because it gave him some time to get acclimated. Whew! This relieved the huge guilt I had been feeling that it took 5 days to discover he had died.
Once the body and note were found, Jon had to feel what everyone was feeling at one time – the anger, hurt, grief, rage, and shock. Everything. I think that if there is a hell, that was it.
He was so sorry for what he had done. Jon realized right away that it was a stupid act, and he asked for our forgiveness and to not be angry with him.
He told us again and again that he was fine, he was great, and he was in a wonderful place.
Several times he repeated that it was stupid to kill himself and no one should ever do it. His actual words were, “I crossed myself over in a stupid way.”
A few weeks later I contacted my favorite professional medium, George Lugo, and Jon came through right away.
During the call, George started by saying, “I have a young man here who keeps insisting that I tell you that he lost weight.” Ha! After Jon had quit smoking (a few years earlier), he put on some weight. When he was visiting, I suggested that he follow the food plan that Ali and I were using to lose weight and he declined. It’s funny that the first words from him were that he had lost weight.
Jon said it wasn’t painful to die and that his grandparents were there to meet him when he crossed over. During the call, Mr. Neatnik Jon twice said (through George), “I can’t believe I ruined a good couch.”
Through the years, Ali and I have talked to George and other mediums and continue to get messages from Jon. He says he is great, and that he is helping other young people adapt when they cross over.
Jon was a gentle soul with a huge heart. He loved taking people to the parks (Universal, waterpark, etc.), he loved buying things for his nieces, and he loved making people happy.
I believe he was undiagnosed Asperger’s: he had trouble connecting with his peers, he often didn’t understand body language or language subtleties, and he was a bit odd.
Furthermore, I believe that Jon, at the soul level, chose a life path that was much too difficult for him and he needed to call it quits. He had no idea how his death would impact all of us, and what he needs now, more than anything, is our forgiveness.
It’s been more than five years since his passing. Jon is talked about and celebrated with my daughter and grandkids a lot. Every year we have a birthday party for him. Ali either prepares his favorite foods (such as club sandwich and a special dessert) or we go out to one of his favorite restaurants (like Cheesecake Factory).
The first birthday after his death was very hard. Ali and I tried our best to be somewhat upbeat for the sake of the children. Each year it’s been getting easier and easier to celebrate Jon and remember the good times. We usually share special Jon stories and we always laugh. The laughter is so healing.
The worst thing that can happen to a parent is losing a child, which can totally destroy the parent. Even worse is a suicide. I know the pain and the agony. I also know that it is possible to not just survive such a tragedy but that it’s also possible to thrive. Because I know first-hand that there is life after tragedy, I am currently writing a book to give bereaved parents hope that they can survive and thrive.
My Survival Tools
Here are a few very important tools that I used to help me recover from my son’s suicide:
- Support system. My spiritual family and Facebook friends know how to send energy and whenever I thought I was drowning in grief, I asked them to send me energy and it kept me afloat. In addition, I had more spiritual support as my connection with Source (God, Universe) intensified.
- Energy Psychology. Many years ago I had created an upgraded version of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) called SourceTapping® (download the script for free at SourceTapping.com). I used it daily to keep my energy moving, take the edge off the pain, get rid of the post traumatic stress around learning of the suicide, and heal the grief.
- Feeling the feelings. There is no right way to grieve and I allow myself to have all my feelings. Even 5 years later, the grief will pop up at some unexpected times, and I welcome it, witness it, and let it move through.
- Forgiveness work. Although I was very angry with my son, I am able to forgive him. He did what he felt he needed to do at that time. They say that “resentments rot the container they’re in” and I choose to let go of the resentments and forgive. I used SourceTapping®, Ho’oponopono (an Hawaiian forgiveness technique – “Thank you, I love you, please for give me, I’m sorry”), and lots of prayer to do this.
I currently start each day in meditation and ask Jon for messages. As I dress, I place his pendant around my neck, to wear it close to my heart. I end each day by saying “Good night, Jon, I love you.” Although my life is full and I am thriving, I love and miss Jon and really wish he were still here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Meryl Hershey Beck, Jonathan’s mother. Licensed counselor, author of Stop Eating Your Heart Out: The 21-Day Program to Free Yourself from Emotional Eating, and creator of SourceTapping®. Meryl is in communication with Jon daily, during meditation, or through a medium. They have an easy relationship now and are actually more connected than ever even though he is not in physical form. She is co-authoring a book to give grieving parents hope that a fulfilling life is possible after your child dies –Loss, Survive, Thrive: Bereaved Parents Share How they Grew Through the Worst Upheaval of Their Lives (working title). Read more about Jon at JonathanHersheyBeck.com or his Facebook page.
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New Book: Loss, Survive, Thrive
I have heard way too many people tell me that when their sibling died, their mother or father never recovered. I've heard stories of depression, drinking oneself to death, and even suicide following the loss of a child.
I have teamed up with award-winning author Sandy Peckinpah to write, Loss, Survive, Thrive – to give bereaved parents hope that life can go on and be meaningful and fulfilling after such a tragedy.
We are seeking stories from other parents who have lost a child and are not just surviving, but are thriving. If you know anyone willing to share his/her story, we'd appreciate your letting them know about this project and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.