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This witness was presented by Grace Oakes during Celebration on September 11, 2022.

Good morning Glide family. I am so honored to be giving the witness today, and I am here to continue breaking the silence around suicide.

I first came to Glide in 2013. I had lost my sister Michelle to suicide, and I was devastated. I was broken in ways I didn’t even know I could be broken. And I felt lost and confused, but I kept coming here and I found comfort. I began to find peace. I began to find healing here, and Glide started to become more to me.

It became a place where I made friends that I absolutely treasure. It became my family. It even became the place where I met the love of my life.

So Glide to me became this place where I could show up exactly the way I was. Broken, healed in the process of healing. I could bring my whole self here. Ultimately, Glide to me is this place that can hold joy and sorrow in the same hand. So I had moved past that place of just surviving and into thriving.

And then around the beginning of this year, the pandemic had been going on a couple of years. I was dealing with my own issues. Blaze was dealing with his own issues. I was in a place where I needed to take a step back to take care of myself, to protect myself, to feel safe, and I just felt so alone.

So, in the midst of all of that, the news came that we had lost Francisco and that we had lost him to suicide. And it threw me back into that place of darkness, of despair, of guilt. Like, why didn’t I make one more phone call? Why didn’t I say, “Are you OK?” But I held on. I did that through music. Some days I would just sit and listen to Carolyn Huggins singing “God Is Good to Me” on auto-repeat on Spotify and I would just cry. When I could get myself here to Glide, because sometimes I was just isolating at home. But I knew if I could get myself here, if I could at least put Glide on YouTube or Facebook, I knew I would get a word of encouragement from Minister Marvin. And more than anything else, the Prayer Circle. That just became the source of so much love and support and community for me.

If you didn’t know Francisco, let me tell you, you really missed out. He was such a wonderfully weird and funny and goofy guy. He was kind and sensitive and generous. He had a heart as big as the ocean. And you know, I wanna say too, to those who have lost someone to suicide, that after all that pain has passed, at some point it does begin to pass. It does get better. What’s left is the love. I’m left with some things I wish I could say to my sister Michelle and to Francisco, but because I can’t, I’ll say them to you. Maybe somebody needs to hear them. You are beautiful. There is hope. You are not replaceable, and you are not alone, and you are loved. I’m Grace, and I am Glide.