When filming The Lucky Ones: Street Stories, I come across people, from all walks of life, who tell stories of those who helped shape their lives. Each tells of the love they shared and why they’re One of The Lucky Ones.
We film our interviews in all sorts of public spaces – festivals, art shows, malls, street corners and parks. When you look at the different people we’ve interviewed for The Lucky Ones, you might think our library quite diverse. But that would be extraordinarily superficial, for each person’s story is a testament to our common humanity.
For example, a young man named Rich proudly describes being raised by his grandmother and how she was always there for him… even through high school. “She taught me, since I was young, how to do the right things in life. Stay in school and off the streets, and focus on my future.”
Alice sweetly shared her story about Chauncey, her husband. They were the quintessential high school couple. He was a football player and she was a cheerleader. “He was a great dad, terrific husband. He taught my sons how to be men, how to be sensitive, how to cry when it’s necessary. He taught them compassion.” Alice summed up perfectly what The Lucky Ones is all about when she said, “Things pass away, but the memories you always keep.”
And then there was Jaclynn, bursting with joy while describing growing up for 17 years with her best friend Krysta, “She was my first experience of friendship.” Jaclynn went on to say that, without Krysta’s influence she wouldn’t be who she is today. She wouldn’t be at peace with herself for who she is.
While listening to Jaclynn tell us her story about Krysta, there was something unspoken in her interview. I never asked how Krysta died. But I knew in my heart that she had taken her own life. All the things we experience when someone we love commits suicide. It’s the sadness of realizing the pain they must have been in. It’s the mystery of why and the realization that we will never know why. It’s also the joy they give us when we talk about their lives. Their spirits dance in our eyes as we speak of them.
A few months ago I called Jaclynn and asked if Krysta had indeed taken her own life. She had. I didn’t ask how. It doesn’t really matter. Her death did not define her. What defined her was the friendship and love she had for Jaclynn and how she made her friend stronger.
It was not unlike other interviews I’ve done. I can tell when someone is speaking about someone who has ended their own life. Perhaps my experience is a guide. My own daughter took her life at 17 years of age. Nine months after her mother had died of cancer. How does one cope with such tragedy?
When my daughter died one of her teachers remarked, “Of all the children I’ve taught, Caitlin is the last person I would think to do this.” She was right. Caitlin was a model for Seventeen Magazine, played three varsity sports, was an A student, spoke with confidence and clarity, played sports with the boys and had a posse of girlfriends. She was a leader by word and deed. Her presence was commanding. She lit up a room when she walked in. Everyone wanted to know who she was.
Like Jaclynn, my eyes dance too when I speak of Caitlin. Thinking of her makes me happy. The love and joy she gave me as I watched her grow up is priceless. Do I wish she hadn’t killed herself? Yes. But she did. And there is nothing anyone can do to change that. What can be changed is how we deal with it. Instead of feeling bad about what she did, how she died, I choose to celebrate her life, grateful for the time I was given with her.
Cherish the time spent, no matter how long or short, with the people you love. Nothing can make Jaclynn or me feel better about Krysta and Caitlin having taken their own lives. What we can do is, celebrate the love we shared by keeping their memories alive.
Celebrating the bonds we have with them by telling stories of the things they did, the things we did together and the impact their lives had on us and others, is a wonderful way to help alleviate the void of their physical presence in our lives. They’re still with us, if we choose to let them be. That’s what makes us one of The Lucky Ones.
About Joseph Alvaro
Joseph Alvaro is the Creator and Executive Producer of The Lucky Ones. His book, “I’m One of The Lucky Ones,” is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Joseph is a 2020 Thought Leader on Best Ever You.
To watch stories visit LuckyOnesTV.com or follow @LuckyOnesTV