During this month of gatherings to celebrate the holidays and the new year, we had the opportunity to speak with Lori Frederick, who lost her son Jacob to suicide on December 1, 2021. While living through one of the most difficult years of her life, Lori, her family, and her son’s friends planned a gathering to honor Jacob’s memory, to build awareness about suicide, and to raise money for Samaritans. The gathering was a Garage Jam where local artists came to serenade the crowd for more than 12 hours. Through that gathering, Lori and her family raised $20,000 for suicide prevention, and they donated it to Samaritans. It is our honor and privilege to share a little bit about the Garage Jam Gathering and Lori’s story.
These are Lori’s words:
On December 1 at around 12:30 am, we were woken up by the Milford police and told our son, Jacob, took his life. We were in absolute shock. We thought there was no way Jake would take his life. We kept thinking there had to be a mistake. They had to have the wrong family. When we arrived at the Blackstone police station and saw Jake’s ID sitting on the desk, we questioned everything we thought we knew. We thought he had the world at his feet, that he was happy, and that he had everything going for him. He had just purchased his first home, and his dream truck. We saw him on Thanksgiving, and he was joking around and harassing his siblings like always. We had no clue that he was suffering in silence.
When we lose someone to suicide, we prefer to remember how they lived more than how they died. If all people have superpowers, what would you say was Jacob’s superpower?
Listening. He listened to anyone about anything for however long they needed. He would never turn anyone away for anything. He was always there – ready to listen and to be a helping hand. Jake was an old soul and was forever the protector of those he cared about.
How have you grown or changed as a result of losing Jake?
There are no words that can express our broken hearts of losing Jake. There is no end to the ways we will grieve and for how long we will grieve. I do feel like I’m even more empathetic now to people’s problems. I am trying to put myself out there to do anything I can to figure out if someone needs help.
As far as we knew, Jake wasn’t sad. Life was great. We had no indication he was struggling. We were a very close family. We talked all the time. We made it a point to have dinner together every Sunday just to catch up.
But as close as we were and as much as we caught up on day-to-day activities, I don’t think I ever asked Jake if he was happy. For me, it just seemed like he was. After we lost Jake, I now ask my son and daughter if they are happy. I ask them if there is anything bothering them that they feel they can’t fix. I ask them if they need help. I realize that what you see on the surface isn’t what is always going on internally. I make it a point to ask now.
It is our understanding that one of Jake’s friends suggested the Garage Jam Gathering you organized? Can you tell us a little bit more about how you decided to do the Garage Jam for Jacob?
Jake’s friend, Jimmy Picard, brought up the Garage Jam to my husband and me in June. He usually just organized it as a gathering for his friends each year, but he asked us if we would do it with him as a charity event in Jake’s memory and to benefit suicide prevention.
What was the Garage Jam for Jacob like?
We held it on August 27 at our home. When Jimmy gave us the idea, we jumped on board and startled hustling. Everyone stepped up to the plate. They donated food, their time, gift baskets. If it wasn’t for the community that surrounds us, we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off.
Jimmy has an oversized garage, and he hired a sound guy that came in to set up the stage so that it sounded really professional. All of the musicians were volunteers, and they took turns playing from about 2pm until 2am in the morning. Absolutely everything was donated – the food, the table and chairs, the drinks, the auction items. We even had a signed Patriot’s football donated for the silent auction. We had T-shirts made to honor Jake that we sold, and we had tip barrels all around the event to collect donations for Samaritans. I would say that we had over 130 people come to the event throughout the day.
When thinking back on that gathering, what was the best moment for you?
The last concert that Jake went to before he died was a Chris Stapleton concert, and he had a favorite song. At the Garage Jam, all of the musicians got together and sang that song for Jake. It was beautiful and emotional. I think Jake would have been proud.
Will you host another Garage Jam in the future?
Oh yes. This was only the first. We plan to make this an annual event and have already started planning for 2023. If this event keeps even one child by their parent’s side, then Jake’s memory lives on.
What do you wish the world knew about suicide and mental illness?
There’s nothing wrong if you are suffering. I think people are afraid to come forward because they are embarrassed or are afraid of how people will portray them. But they are not alone. Depression and other mental health crises do not discriminate. It does not matter who you are, what you have achieved, or how the world perceives you. Sometimes the seemingly strongest among us are suffering. Check on your kids, be a thorn in their side.
Is there anything else that you want to share with the Samaritans community about Jacob and the role that this gathering has played in your journey so far?
I am grateful beyond words for everyone that came together to support us during the past 12 months. There is nothing– and I mean absolutely nothing– we take for granted. We have Jacob to thank for that. Being Jacob’s mom was one of the best gifts I have ever been given. Even death cannot take that away.
Our Samaritans team wants to say thank you for all that you have done in memory of Jake. Thank you for the gathering that you organized to build community and connection and to bring awareness to suicide prevention.
We hear stories like Lori’s more than we wish. For the seemingly strongest in your life, please give generously to support all those who struggle in silence and those who have lost a loved one. Your support is so important.