From Anguish to Activism: A Mother’s Journey to Get Your Wellness On
“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.” Sonia Johnson
Esmeralda Williamson-Noble: Ending the Stigma of Suicide through Love and Action…
Less than a year ago, on November 3rd, I was jolted out of a deep sleep by a disturbing phone call; it was a call from my friend and neighbor Esmeralda, repeating words no parent ever wishes to hear – “My son is dead … Andrew, my son is dead.” I was in such a state of shock, I bolted out of bed and ran across the hallway of my home; my mind was racing, imagining I was dreaming, even as I heard myself ask, again and again: “What happened? What happened?” Andrew had died of suicide from a fall at NYU’s Bobst Library.
We were all devastated. You see, Andrew Edward Kirkley Williamson-Noble was a son to me; he was the son I never had and I loved him … his gentle spirit, his wit and sense of humor. We had shared many meals and moments of laughter together and when he followed his sister, Florentina, to NYU, I was confident he would shine. He was smart; a savvy businessman in training, a gifted fencer, and a talented baker. Andrew was a thoughtful son, brother and friend to many who loved him, and an all around humanitarian… He cared deeply about the under-served and I had imagined great things for him.
I quickly got dressed and headed over to her home. We cried together, every member of the family was in a state of shock. It was unexpected. When we collected ourselves a bit, we piled into two cars and drove to Manhattan to identify Andrew’s body. That sad and dreadful morning, I joined his mom, dad, siblings and a few friends at the hospital to say our initial farewells. I witnessed how Esmeralda, galvanized by this sad event, rallied to make sense of it all and pulled on her inner resources to ensure that other young people find help in difficult times. More below!
“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” Marian Wright Edelman
It seems like only yesterday, when today’s interviewee, my feisty friend with a gentle heart and great sense of humor, Esmeralda Williamson-Noble, lost her son. Esmeralda is a mother, writer, blogger, realtor, SIDS and Suicide activist, founder of both the Windflower Ball (SIDS) and Get Your Wellness On (Suicide) programs. After Andrew passed away, she decided to commit her life and resources to education others about suicide prevention, and embarked on a mission to bring attention to the stigma around suicide, and to advocate more yoga and meditation for our children.
Esmeralda has worked tirelessly to continue the dialogue in both the media and through her dedicated blog – Forever Invictus. Her efforts have bore enormous fruit in that we will all be beneficiaries of a Get Your Wellness On suicide awareness/prevention and wellness fair this weekend. It is organized in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention -AFSP and is scheduled for Saturday, September 18, 2010, 1-5 p.m. at Washington Square Park, Alexander Holley Plaza in NYC. If you’re around that day, do stop by.
On the subject of Suicide, we can help reduce the numbers by paying attention to a downward shift in behavior and self isolation among other signs. It is also important to note that:
Every year in the United States, thirty three thousand Americans die of suicide. Of those thirty three thousand, eleven hundred are college-age students, making suicide the third leading cause of death among young adults 15-24. It is time to break the shroud of silence around suicide.
Please join us to:
Break the Silence, Let Suicide Out of the Closet
“Get Your Wellness On” First Annual Fair
Event Date: September 18, 2010, 1-5 p.m.
Washington Square Park, Alexander Holley Plaza, NYC
*If you, or someone you know, is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)* Get Help via NSPL
INTERVIEW WITH ESMERALDA
Recently, I invited Esmeralda to share some of her hectic life and wisdom with us. In addition to her many credentials above, Esmeralda is a member of the national advisory council of First Candle/SIDS Alliance and a student of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi, fondly known as Amma – the hugging saint.
Esmeralda is truly an inspiration because she has taken an indescribably painful event and transformed it into a movement for change and good. Lives will be saved and we can all add our voices and effort to the cause. She agreed to share some thoughts with us and her responses are below. As with all my interviews, you may connect with Esmeralda through her social media sites and her: blog, Huffpost page, Get Your Wellness On Facebook page, and Twitter handle. Your comments will also be appreciated. Thank you!
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman
Tell us a bit on your background: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Sicily, Italy, where I was born. I lived in England for many years and worked in the hospitality industry where I met and married my husband – Hugh. My four children (Florentina, Andrew, Robert & Alexander) were born in England and we have lived in the New York area since 1994.
What are you currently doing for a life-path/living?
I am a SIDS & Suicide activist. I advocate Yoga and meditation. I see a day when Yoga and meditation will be a normal part of the school day, from preschool onwards.
Tell us a bit more about what led you to this life path?
If I have to pinpoint events, of course, the deaths of two of my four children, Alexander to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and Andrew to suicide have led me to my life path.
Have you made any key changes to your personal goals?
Yes I have. I am now concentrating my efforts in the area of suicide awareness & prevention within the overall context of Wellness. I see suicide as but one manifestation of dis-ease.
Share your Worldview: How do you live your life and view the world?
I live my life quietly. I write every day. I listen to my higher Self and take every opportunity there is to be of service in the areas mentioned above. I see the world as a beautiful creation/place where we have the opportunity to discover ourselves.
What would you like others to learn about the upcoming fair?
I would like people to learn that suicide is far more wide-spread than we think. I would like them to learn facts rather than myths about suicide; such as the widespread myth that when someone is determined to die of suicide they’ll find a way. Incorrect! I would like people to remember that while there is life, there is hope. And I would like to offer solidarity; I would like people to know that we are never truly alone, that if we find the courage and the strength to call out, help will come.
“People’s dreams are made out of what they do all day. The same way a dog that runs after rabbits will dream of rabbits. It’s what you do that makes your soul, not the other way around.” Barbara Kingsolver
What do you consider most important about yourself? Your journey?
Me. I am the most important thing about myself and of my own journey.
My journey is mine; only parts of it can be shared.
What motivates you to get out of bed?
My family, my activism and my love of writing.
What makes you happy/laugh?
The feeling of oneness with myself makes me happy. Sounds, smells, words, friends… And the weirdest things can make me laugh such as being in the car with a certain friend of mine :-) who calls every other driver on the road “Papi’, silly things like that can actually crack me up.
What makes you sad/mad?
Confusing death with the end of life makes me sad. And the same friend who makes me laugh can make me mad; also my mother and my husband… sometimes.
What would you do differently with your life if you had the power? With the world if you had the chance?
I would marry a rich man … no, seriously. I wish I had learned sooner about the power of the Self, but here I am, at peace with what I am doing. I don’t know that I would change anything with the world. I mean I would love to see love for each other and for Mother Nature, and what I can do is work on loving myself, others and Mother Nature, in theory and in practice.
What guiding principle(s) make your life meaningful?
I don’t know… passion, enthusiasm, sharing, and I make every effort to make sure that whatever I do is out of love and truth; whether I succeed is a different question, but I do try.
What word(s) of advice would you give to others today?
I don’t feel that I am in a position to advise anybody, but what I am learning to do is to open my heart and love myself; I would offer same to others.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a pain in the ass that shook things up… not entirely a pain.
A very personal thing that changes as we do. For me right now, I think that reaching people through the Fair would bring me a measure of happiness… in the sense that I would feel that Andrew’s life and death are a beacon of light, love and hope for others. Winning the lottery would bring a smile to my face as would a book; a many-figure book deal. How about that?
Seriously, one thing that I believe would make me happy right now, would be the ability to communicate freely with my Andrew and Alexander.
Again, you may connect with Esmeralda via her Forever Invictus blog, her Huffpost page, on the Get Your Wellness On face book page, and via her Twitter handle. Please join us on Saturday to honor and share aspects of Andrew’s life… as we collectively raise awareness on this critical subject. Your comments will also be appreciated.
What are your questions or comments for Esmeralda? Are you an expert in a field that our readers can benefit hearing about? Do you have a story to share? Please share your feedback with us. Thank You!
For More: Women’s Lives & Issues
Photos of: Andrew, Esmeralda and the Williamson-Noble family courtesy of Hugh & Esmeralda Williamson-Noble
- 13th Annual International Survivors of Suicide Day (afsp.org)
- Army Releases January Suicide Data (thecommunicatorwv.wordpress.com)
- Cassidy Joy Andel (kcareyinfante.com)