Letter: Seeking strength through a tragic time
A call at midnight usually is never a good thing. It was a deputy saying that he was at our front door. As soon as Eric Hansen introduced himself as the coroner, I knew what had happened. My beautiful 23-year-old son Raymond had taken his own life.
Although Eric had spent most of the day processing not only Raymond’s death but also the tragic death of Nancy Pfister, he stayed with my husband, Roger, and me, giving us the harsh details and telling us what needed to happen next. Eric guided me to call the Donor Alliance in Denver, where the gentle people there took Raymond’s information so tissue and bone could be recovered from him. With only a few hours rest, Eric came back the next day to return some of Raymond’s personal items. May God hold you in the palm of his hand, Eric.
Within moments, it seems, Roger and I were surrounded by the love of the Aspen community. My dearest friend, Jama Parker, was at our sides through the first terrible night and throughout the coming days. Cathy Kerr took charge of the painful process of Raymond’s cremation at Farnum Holt with the guidance of lovely Emilie. Ellen Anderson coordinated meals from Aspen Village residents and friends to make sure that we kept up our strength. With the help and generosity of so many, all of Raymond’s family from outside Colorado had a place to stay without having to pay the premium price for hotel rooms. We continue to receive cards and phone calls from so many whose words of comfort and special remembrances of Raymond help to ease the pain of our loss.
Raymond was addicted to alcohol. It is amazing how quickly this happened. He tried to beat it. I found in his personal effects the 24-hours card from the members of his Alcoholics Anonymous group with notes of encouragement and love. He attended AA meetings regularly at first but then, as he told me, only when he felt himself sliding back to excessive drinking. He told me that it was hard to be out with his peers and co-workers and be the only one who did not drink. After a long day, he felt he “deserved” to drink. The night that Raymond took his life, he had a blood-alcohol level of more than .220.
But through all the darkness in Raymond’s life, he found the light of God in the compassion and the ministry of the Rev. John Hilton and the parish of St. Mary Catholic Church. Raymond joined the adult confirmation class in the fall and would have received his first Holy Communion on Easter Sunday. Raymond’s funeral Mass was a wonderful celebration of a beautiful young soul. St. Mary’s was filled with so many whom he touched, including his friends and co-workers from Aspen Skiing Co. I am grateful to all at Skico for seeing the potential in my intelligent young son. I know that they did what they could to help Raymond through his issues.
The Aspen Hope Center is hosting a forum on suicide at 6 p.m. today at the Wheeler Opera House. It is time to find a way to stop the madness of suicide.
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Elizabeth Velasco, of Glenwood Springs, has officially tossed her name into the Democratic hat to try to win the party’s nomination to run for the Colorado House District 57 seat in the state Legislature.