Tuesday, December 06, 2016
"My Living Will - A Father's Story of Loss & Hope" by John Trautwein
John Trautwein's book is one of the most impactful books I have read in a long while. It deals with increasing the will to live among troubled teens. "My Living Will - A Father's Story of Loss & Hope" tells the heart-rending story of how the Trautwein family lost their 15 year-old son, Will, to suicide in 2010 and the remarkable events that have ensued. It is a book that took me longer than usual to read because I kept having to stop reading to wipe the tears from my eyes. And yet, ultimately, it is a tremendously uplifting account of how victory can be forged from the ashes of unspeakable tragedy and loss.
I became aware of this book, and the Will To Live Foundation that it supports, because I have met the author, former Red Sox pitcher John Trautwein. Many readers are aware that I help to run a program at Fenway Park called "Autograph Alley." Each home game, a former Red Sox player returns to sign free autographs. John comes up from Atlanta at least once each season to sign, and to disseminate the foundation's message of suicide warning and of hope.
What makes this book such a treasure is that it is not only extraordinarily well written, but it comes from John's heart, which is simultaneously broken and hopeful. His chronicling of the family's despair in the wake of Will's suicide is vivid in its intensity and descriptiveness. I felt as if I were there with them in their Georgia home the morning that Susie Trautwein walked into her son's room to find him suspended by his belt from his closet door. But just as vivid are the stories that emerged of how the family and their amazing network of supportive family and friends and neighbors were able to find ways to make Will's tragic death redemptive.
The book should be a must read for all teenagers, their parents, teachers, and coaches. John is very clear and transparent in sharing things that he and others did well, as well as discussing things that could have been done differently. He also paints a clear picture of the actions and words that were most helpful in the wake of the family tragedy. If you have ever wondered what you should do or say to a family that has suffered a grievous loss, this book with by eye-opening. If you have ever wondered how to talk to your teenager about suicide, this book offers clear guidance.
The foundation that was created from the funds that were given in memory of Will has been a beacon that has allowed Will's light to continue to shine. The focus is on teaching teenagers to be "life teammates" for one another, and how to detect signs that someone is struggling and may be considering suicide. It provides scholarships for student athletes that have shown a passion for reaching out to mentor those coming after them. And the foundation supports other organizations that proliferate suicide education to youngsters and adults.
Suicide has a stigma. We do not like to think about it or talk about it. Yet it is an epidemic that can only be eradicated if we shine the light of hope and love into the dark corners of the minds and hearts of those who may be suffering with depression - often while presenting the mask of a smiling face to the outside world. This book and John Trautwein's wise words offer some excellent coaching on how to be proactive in increasing the will to live among those who might otherwise despair.
I encourage you to check out the Foundation's website. Will To Live Foundation:
Will To Live Website