The pain left by one friend's suicide is felt by all

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- In the time it takes to read this story someone in the United States will take their own life.

Roughly every 15 minutes, someone in this country dies by suicide, equaling out to more than 36,000 deaths every year.

For Airman 1st Class Janelle Marsh, a fitness specialist with the 633rd Force Support Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Va., those 15 minutes ran out when one her best friends from her hometown of Ionia, Mich., hung himself in his father's garage, March 22, 2012. His name was Robert Harrington, but his friends all called him "Bubba."

"When I picture it, I see him hanging there," Marsh said, as she nervously fidgets with her hands. "I've been to his dad's garage. I can see him standing in the doorway, with the shelves along the wall. The rope is tied to a beam on the ceiling, and he's there - just hanging from it with the ladder next to him."

She paused, still searching for the words.

"It's disturbing to picture someone you know and love doing something like that," she continued. "I knew him since I was 12, and I still think about him every day."

Marsh heard the news of her friend's death that Thursday, while at work. By Saturday, she was on a plane headed to Michigan for the funeral, after using money she was going to put toward a car down payment to buy the plane ticket.

"I broke down the day I found out," she said. "But, I didn't cry at the funeral. I hadn't been home in a while, so I didn't think it was my place. I felt like I had to be the one to hold it together."

At the funeral, Marsh said she saw just how many people truly loved Bubba.

"He had so many friends," she said, with a sad smile on her face. "The church ran out of sitting room. Seeing all those people made me realize suicide hurts the people you love more than it hurts you."

She watched as his family all gathered around the open coffin, leaning over to say goodbye. His friends filled the seats and aisles of the church, all trying to understand why someone who had such a great life and so many loved ones felt the only choice he had left was death. Even after three months, the grieving has not passed.

"So I'm sitting at home," Shonda Brown wrote on the "We Love Bubba Harrington" Facebook group's wall, June 22. "Trying to clean but all these pictures in my house make me miss you even more. I will never understand any of this and I'm finally learning to deal with that. It's just so hard for me to accept.

"It has been three months and not a day goes by that I don't cry, laugh [or] smile because I'm thinking about you. I hurt every day. I'm going through a really rough time right now and I just wish I could talk to you like I always do when I'm feeling down. I miss you like crazy Bubba! And I hope you know how much I love you!"

For some, the lack of understanding has led to resentment toward Bubba's actions, Marsh said.

"I see suicide as selfish," Marsh said. "After it's done, you can't be there for the people you hurt. He [Bubba] loved his mom and now he can't be there to see how much he's hurt her. His buddies were there to carry him from the church to the hearse. No one wants to carry their friends like that."

Marsh encourages anyone thinking of hurting themselves to stop, and put themselves into the shoes of their loved ones.

"There is always another way out," Marsh said, emphatically. "Committing suicide doesn't make the pain go away. You may stop hurting, but you hurt everyone you love, and everyone who loves you."

While the pain and anger felt by those left behind is still strong, Marsh said it is tempered by remembering the good times people shared with Bubba.

"I am always thinking of you," Pamela Schafer wrote on Bubba's group, July 2. "I see your face everywhere, I can only imagine how hard it will be when I am back home visiting over the next few months. I still ask why and how... and I'm still a little angry, but I have always and will always love you Bub. You were the greatest friend (brother is God's way) a girl could ask for."

Marsh said all Bubba left was a letter explaining that he didn't want to hurt anymore. Looking back, Marsh said she would have done her best to show Bubba there was more to life and so much more to live for. She would have shown him the response he got to a Facebook post he made ten days before he killed himself. Bubba had written he was in a bad place and wanted to spend some time with friends. Marsh said the comments poured in with offers from friends to hang out, or help take his mind off things. But, she said in the end those comments didn't matter - it didn't change what he did.

"I just keep thinking that I'm never going to see him again," she said.

Robert "Bubba" Harrington was 24-years-old when he killed himself. He left a note explaining he was ending his life over a broken heart. He never saw the church packed full of people wanting to say their final goodbyes. He never saw the nearly 300-strong Facebook group, dedicated to immortalizing his life. He never saw the pain his actions left behind. He never saw that though all the pain and sadness, Marsh and her friends have been able to pick themselves up and carry on.

"You just have to," Marsh said . "You have to keep going. There is no trying. There is so much more to life. If you are at rock bottom, then the only place you have left to go is up."

Original content found here.
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