Some stories are just so heartbreaking, you don't even know where to start writing, or how to start wrapping your mind around what happened. That's the case with the story of Joe Bell, the Oregon father who was walking across the country to raise awareness about his gay son.
Jaden Bell was only 15 years old when he committed suicide last year, after being relentlessly bullied; Joe Bell was killed last week, struck by a truck on the side of the road in Colorado.
Just like his child's life, Bell's mission was cut brutally and senselessly short, but their messages were not.
This courageous dad's plan was simple: To make change, to shed light and awareness on a dark, sick part of our society's soul, and to encourage parents to love and protect their own gay children, as all children should be loved and cherished. After his child hung himself from a piece of playground equipment, Bell made it his mission to walk -- to walk from Oregon to New York City, the place where his son once dreamed about living and working.
I know all too well that to lose a loved one to suicide is unbearable. And yet, somehow, you do bear it, because the alternative is not an option. I can understand the compulsion Joe obviously felt to DO something, to walk, to move, to take some kind of action, to find a way to fight back against what happened to his son, and to try to keep it from happening to someone else's child.
Bell shared updates about his walk on his Joe's Walk for Change Facebook page, and scrolling through the status updates and photos is terribly saddening -- but also moving and uplifting. To see all the people that Bell reached, and who reached out to him, is incredible, humbling, and restores a little bit of my faith in humanity.
Joe's walk was not for nothing. He made a difference. He leaves behind his partner, Lola Lathrop, and three other children who will hopefully be able to take some small comfort in the fact that their loved one died a hero.
Joe's post on Facebook for October 9th reads: "Making headway, one step at a time."
You took many, many steps Joe, and made a real difference in the world.
I'm not religious, but I do believe that now Joe is with his son, somewhere, somehow, protected from pain and sorrow. And it's up to the rest of us to continue to make this world we live in a better, more open and tolerant place.
Is there anything worse than losing a child?
Image via Joe's Walk for Change/Facebook