Mary Jane & Tim "Dear Sam"

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Randy Bacon with 7 Billion Ones in partnership with National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest Missouri (NAMI) are proud to announce a major, multifaceted portrait art exhibition, story and short film series:

It Knows No Face

Portraits of Suicide Survivors.

Learn more HERE

Mary Jane’s Story:

Photography by    Randy Bacon

Photography by Randy Bacon

A Letter From Mary Jane, To Sam:

Dear Sam,

It was a beautiful day, the day you took your life, March 17, 2017 - St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve learned beautiful days can be deceiving, for you never know what they may hold. I don’t trust life much anymore.

I will never forget where I was and my first thoughts when your dad told me you were gone. My first reaction was relief for you, that you were no longer suffering, and relief for me. I no longer had to watch your deep, overwhelming, painful struggle. I know many will not understand these thoughts but you just can’t understand unless you’ve been there. A mother’s biggest heartache is to see her child in pain and not be able to do anything about it. You were in a lot of pain for many years, I saw it in your eyes and as you began your slow withdrawal from things you always loved and your friends. Your death was not a total surprise to me. But yet, it is still a daily shock to my soul that you are gone. I saw you slipping away before my eyes. Nothing we tried was working. You did not share the full truth of your battle. We were fighting a fight we couldn’t win. I am struggling with my forgiveness for you and myself.

I knew everything I had to do, the day you took your life. I had to get to your dorm room for I needed your possessions to be close. I was surprised at how little you had. I needed to smell your clothes and your sheets. I needed to find your journal for I was sure you left a note. I needed to see you and touch you. You were cold but I could hold you, kiss you and stroke your beautiful face. I had to touch the blood on your clothes; I needed to find a way to feel close to you. I laid my body on the ground; at the site you took your life. I had to find the evidence of how you spent your last day. All of them, in an attempt to feel you near and to try to understand. But what I learned is that nothing will ever be enough. None of those things were you.

What will this day hold, the day you left us, one year ago. I’ve dreaded it since the day you took your life. I’ve dreaded many days and all the special days, because they all now come with pain. Over the last year my body, mind and soul have anticipated this day. I find it hard to describe my feelings. I feel sad, good, anger, grateful, jealous, hopeful, deprived, strong, vulnerable, anxious, isolated, overwhelmed and a million other things. They are all mixed up. I’ve tried planning for this day. I guess it will be what it will be. But my hope is to feel near and feel a little peace.

My thoughts go to you a hundred times a day. I can’t even explain how much I miss you. The memories and pictures of you bring pain not peace. I thank you for the little signs, I hope are from you. You’ve come to many in their dreams; I wish those dreams were mine.

Your death has been devastating to me, our family, and the many others who loved you. We will never be the same. We will never forget you. What will our lives look like and what will be different? I know for me, right now, everything is tainted with sadness; my zest for life is a little less. I’ve lost my confidence as a mom, wife, friend, and in all I do. I’ve been shaken to my very core.

I speak to those of you who think you are a burden. You are wrong. The burden will be, if you choose to take your life, and the pain and devastation you will leave behind. There is hope!! You have to seek it with all your might. You have to ask for help and continue to TRY ONE MORE THING. I can say these things because I’ve been there. I’ve fought for my life. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to the ones that love us.


Thank you for supporting this very important project. My greatest wish is that I will relentlessly show up for the hurting. Here’s to the Warriors who continually show up, those who struggle and those trying to support and help those with mental illness.

Mary Jane, Sam’s mom

Spreading Hope by Spreading Sam


Tim’s Story:


Suicide has taken our son, Sam. He was nineteen. It was his way of escaping the pain that he was in. He didn’t see any way out other than taking his own life. He viewed his issues as something that would only get worse over time and he was just tired of living in the pain. It’s truly changed everything about me. Every day I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking about him. It’s extremely difficult to sleep, to think clearly, to get through a day. I think some people look at suicide as a very selfish act and I can see that. There are times when I’ve felt very angry with my son for taking his life and creating this very painful life for me and his mom and his sister and all of his friends. But having dealt with similar issues that my son dealt with, I forgave him right away.

Now I know that he was in a lot more pain than he let us in on, and that’s one of the big issues that we would like to let people know about; you have to talk about the things that are bothering you or it will only get worse. Letting people in your life know what you’re dealing with is the first step to getting better and getting past those suicidal thoughts. I only wish Sam would have let us know how much he was struggling and how early on it was. We could tell that he was struggling with some issues, but not to the depth or the severity that he really was, and he didn’t let us know until it was really almost too late. He didn’t let us know until he was eighteen that he was really, really struggling and had considered suicide in the past. He really felt like he was just out of place and that there was nothing that could help him. And there are things that can help, there’s no question about it. But the first thing is talking about it. Talking to loved ones, to friends, so they know where you’re coming from and could offer some insight possibly. We did get Sam some professional help, but I think it was too late for him. He wasn’t able to open up to anybody, especially someone that he didn’t know really well. He did have a couple of friends that he felt comfortable enough to talk with about things, but he wasn’t able or wasn’t comfortable enough talking to myself or his mom about his issues.

My wife and our daughter keeps me going more than anything. They need me, and I need to be there for them. After Sam passed, the natural reaction for me was to withdrawal. I didn’t want to talk about things, but fortunately my wife has pushed me to think about it and talk about it, and it’s definitely helped me cope and get through the first year. Helping others always helps you mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I have to keep getting out there and helping others. I have to let people know that suicide affects everybody. A lot of it’s hereditary. And knowing that there’s people out there that I might be able to help, gives me strength to get through each day.

I was inspired to get a tattoo in memory of my son by two of his best friends who got a tattoo in his honor a couple of days after he passed away. It’s a reminder of a feeling that I used to get every time I took Sam to a golf tournament where I had to wait for him to get warmed up and get ready to play. I taught Sam how to play golf and we’d been playing since he was three years old. I’d take him to the tournaments, drop him off and he’d go warm up. I’d have about thirty minutes to an hour before he teed off, so I’d have a good amount of time to get kind of nervous and excited. Three days after he passed away, the Missouri State golf team, which he was a member of, played in a tournament here in town and he was supposed to be playing in it. The team played the tournament in his honor, and I took his golf bag out to the first tee that morning of the tournament. I was there about forty five minutes ahead of time like always, and I was just standing on the first tee and I got that excited, nervous feeling like he was over on the driving range getting ready. I got that feeling one last time.

I just miss him so much. He was just a wonderful kid. Kind-hearted. I never saw or heard him be mean to anybody. And I take a lot of, I don’t know if that’s pride or gratitude, knowing that his mother and I gave him the best life we could and he was able to accomplish a lot in his nineteen years. That’s in part because we were there for him along the way, we gave him opportunities to do things that a lot of kids aren’t able to do. He touched a lot of lives along the way, and I think that’s why he was here for the time he was.

Brought to you in partnership with:

7Billion Ones, Annie Busch, NAMI Southwest Missouri, and Touchstone Counseling