The world is badly in need of reasons to hope. As we write these words in March of 2022, we are two years into a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of six million people with no apparent end in sight. War has started in Europe for the first time since World War II.
Here at Stars of HOPE, we’ve been suffering from a tragedy of our own—we lost our longtime friend and volunteer, Matt D., to suicide.
It’s been difficult to deal with Matt’s death for so many reasons. We lost a friend, a brother, a co-worker. This is especially hard to bear when we recall the many people Matt helped to recover from post-traumatic depression. He accomplished this as a volunteer, as the driver of the HOPE bus (or, before that, the ever-rolling station wagon he shared with his beloved Dalmatian Molly), as a children’s author, as the creator of an all-purpose seasoning called Duck Salt. Literally, everything Matt did, said, or thought was dedicated to bringing hope to others.
The last time we spoke to Matt, he was more energized than we’d seen him in years. Among the many things we discussed (it was not a Matt call without many things to discuss) was how excited he was by the possibility of getting the HOPE bus back on the road. Matt lived for the journey.
And now that journey has taken him away from us.
How did he go? How did we lose a person whose entire life was dedicated to hope?
The truth is, we’ll never know.
And we’re heartbroken.
His loss is a painful reminder that, even within an organization dedicated to emotional recovery through human connection, you cannot take anyone’s life or well-being for granted.
His life remains a reason to believe, connect, and hope.
Our network is expanding globally, but it’s important to remember that no matter how far we travel, those next to us need to be looked after.
It’s Stars of HOPE’s mission to let everyone who has suffered through tragedy know we are here for them and that someone is thinking about them and wishes them love, peace, happiness, and recovery.
That includes everyone who has been affected by anything that’s been happening in the world lately. Whether it’s simply by watching the events unfold on the news, those in the middle of fighting with others, those fighting with the demons in their head, or those dealing with personal devastation. Know you are suffering; it’s ok to feel the way you do.
You will laugh again someday.
When our communities, homes, friends, and even neighbors are attacked and lost, our inner worlds are inevitably shaken. External damage will always cause internal pain.
When this happens, it’s easy to lose sight of ourselves, our place in the world and become disconnected from the feeling that we are happy and safe.
It’s hard to dream, to breathe, and to laugh.
But together, we can make it ok again.
Those of us here who have gone through tragedies know that one thing that keeps us going in the midst of a battle, whether it’s against barbaric invaders or the demons in our heads, is the idea of the life we’re fighting for, for the world we hope to live in.
For most, I believe that the world would be filled with love, peace, and laughter.
Even if the laughter doesn’t come right now. Even if you can’t see the path back to joy, just knowing it will be there waiting for you can be enough to get you through the day. And the laughter doesn’t have to come all at once. It can be found anywhere.
As the situation unfolds in Ukraine, we see the resiliency – in the people, in the reporters, and in their leader, President Zelensky, a man who began his career making people laugh as a comedian. He won his way into people’s hearts through joy, and we can only hope that this power will also help them win their war.
In the meantime, we’d like to let anyone fighting a battle know that this too shall pass. And when it does, the laughter will come back along with the peace.
We know that if we stay together, talk about our struggles, and let each other know we care. There will come a time in the future when the better weeks come, and we’ll feel joy and happiness again, as well as the warm memories of a friend and the dream of a world with peace.
We know that our friend Matt would want us to laugh again.
Rest in peace, Matt. We’ll see you down the road somewhere.
Love and strength to everyone in Ukraine.
Hope for us all.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental illness, we encourage them to reach out for help to the National Institute of Mental Health.
If you’d like to join us in promoting human connection and helping heal the emotional pain in others, we encourage you to become a volunteer or donate to our hope bank here.