September 7, 2017
A Letter to Tommy Neff (who died by suicide)
By: Kelly Neff, his mother
"My dearest Tommy,
I have loved you from the moment I found out I was expecting you.
The reality and the enormity of caring for a child did not sink in until the moment you took your first breath. You became the center of my world as the nurse placed you in my arms for the first time. I had no idea how to be a mother, but my deepest desire was to be the best one I could be.
Your father and I allowed you to dictate our days and nights for about six months or so after you were born. You were a night owl right from the start, with a great pair of lungs!
It wasn’t until your six-month wellness baby visit that the doctor informed me that you didn’t need that night feeding anymore--you were just in the habit of waking at that time every night.
He explained that it would take about a week’s worth of crying to break the cycle to get you to sleep through the night. It was a rough week, to say the least! Hearing your cries just about made me come unglued.
I don’t think a parent ever adjusts to seeing (or hearing) their child experience discomfort.
You were quite a strong-willed young man growing up, which led to many confrontations over the years.
That strong will is what could get you into trouble at home, but it ended up being the thing that helped you stay out of trouble away from home.
Your strong will is what enabled you to stand firm in your beliefs, even when facing pressure from your peers. I have always admired your strength of character and your ability to persevere through disappointment.
Knowing this about you makes it even more difficult to understand what happened on September 7th, 2011.
It is hard to believe that six years have passed since we said goodbye. In many ways, it still seems like yesterday. The memories of that night are still very vivid in my mind.
As much as I would like to push the memories of finding you that night from my mind, I cannot. Those memories haunt me and torment me, continually reopening the deep wound left behind from losing you.
Grieving your absence is difficult enough on its own, but the 'ambushes' that cause my memory to hit the replay button happen every single day.
Watching TV or listening to the radio is difficult because there are so many scenes, dialogues, and songs that instantly bring back horrific images that are forever seared into my mind.
Tommy, I want you to know how deeply sorry your entire family is for not recognizing the depth of your pain.
We knew you were struggling and trying to figure out what you wanted to pursue as a career. We even knew you struggled with feelings of failure. We just thought you were going through the normal struggles that many experience during that phase of life.
Please forgive us for not asking you about it.
We were ignorant and just didn’t realize the scope of your pain. We love you so much and would do things so differently if we had the chance!
I have told you, your brother, and your sisters often as you were growing up that we all make mistakes and I promised that I would love you no matter what.
I reassured each of you that it was ok if you messed up, that I may get mad for a time, but that nothing could make me stop loving you. I have read and have been told that being angry with the one who left is a normal part of the grieving process.
Maybe there will come a time in the future when I experience that, but I want you to know I am not angry now, nor have I been angry with you for leaving me.
My heart is overcome with great compassion for you, my son, because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt how much you love your entire family.
I know you would never intentionally do anything to cause harm to any one of us. In fact, your nature and character was to be strongly protective of us all. This is how I know that something was terribly wrong the night you left us. You have no idea how much I wish we had been there to help you that night.
Tommy, we love you so much, and we know that if you had stopped long enough to think about what this would do to us, you would never have done it. I know that with all my heart, and that is why I have not been angry with you and only feel compassion for what you must have been feeling that night.
I am writing this letter to you because I want to express the great sorrow that resides in our hearts in your absence, that there is no one who could ever take your place, to ask for your forgiveness for our ignorance, and to remind you that we will never stop loving you!
I hope that you can see from heaven the things we have done and are working on in your name as a tribute to you.
I hope we bring honor to your memory and that you are proud of us for working hard to persevere through the pain.
We will always love you Tommy, no matter what!