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I'm walking in the Out of the Darkness Salt Lake City Walk to fight suicide and support AFSP's bold goal to reduce the suicide rate 20% by 2025 in memory of my sweet son, his story is below.
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There is an amazing little boy that I had the privilege of meeting for the first time; two and a half weeks before we were even supposed to see each other for the first time. He was not due until the first week or so in that February of 1998, but he did not want to wait, he decided that he wanted his birthday to be January 20th. His early arrival took us all by surprise; his daddy almost even missed it! We still did not have a name picked out for him, we had a few prior that just did not sit right with us, but as soon as his daddy held him, he said “Forrest or Avery”, my heart leapt at hearing “Avery”, so Avery it was!
Avery was always quiet, even when he was born. His cry was silent! The nurses thought maybe he was not getting enough oxygen because he was not crying like a normal baby, so they monitored him in the NICU just for a bit, but that was just it, Avery was not the typical baby, he was one of a kind, special, ours! Like a lot of babies when they are born, his eyes looked bluish. But I told his daddy, they will be brown, you watch. After our first little one, Tabitha, being born blonde haired and blue eyed, he thought, “no way!” But Avery let me have my way and he ended up with the most beautiful brown eyes! I was overjoyed!
Avery, to remain true to his birth self, still was very quiet as he got older, did not really start talking too much until he was after a year old. When we moved to Florida, he started to become more talkative as he started finding a love for animals. Living in Florida gave him such an awesome place to be able to see animals in their natural areas that he clearly would not have gotten in Utah. He loved seeing the dolphins and alligators in the coastal waters, but his favorite was Manatees which he so lovingly referred to as “tee tees”. I never wanted him to stop calling them that! We got to take him to the Florida Aquarium where he got to touch Nurse Sharks and he fell in love with sharks, he had a book of them and could tell you every type of shark that was in that book just by seeing a picture of it. He also loved snakes, which back then he called them “naskes”, I did not want him to stop saying it that way either! During this time we also learned about Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter. Avery was captivated by this man and the things he did. We watched his show every chance we got! I truly believe that this was his childhood hero! Avery’s interest started to turn to dinosaurs, that was another creature that he knew just about every name of and could just see a picture and tell you what it was. His knowledge of these things amazed me to no end!
When we moved back to Utah from Florida, we had the opportunity to take him to Yellowstone. I think this trip finalized his love for all creatures and the great outdoors. He was so excited to see the bears, bison, elk, and the fish in the rivers (there was one in particular that you can stand on the bridge and see all of the fish in the water). Around this time, Avery started finding a love for movies; I could not even begin to list the ones he loved, but Toy Story was one of his favorites! He LOVED Buzz Lightyear! He was Buzz for Halloween one year and he loved it, he loved it so much in fact that he was still wearing that costume on his birthday three months later! I was never worried about buying Halloween costumes for Avery; I knew that I would get my money’s worth by how many times he would wear it after. I believe he did the same thing with his Green Goblin costume and his Blue’s Clues “Blue” costume (Blue by the way was a girl and Magenta was the boy, but I could not for the life of me put Avery in the Pink costume and Tabi in the Blue one).
When Avery was really little, I think he was about 2, he had gotten out of the tub and his fingers were all waterlogged, I did not (and still don’t) like the feel of waterlogged fingers, mine included. I had told him “oh don’t get me with your ooey gooey fingers!” and every time after that for many years he would get out of the tub and come right after me trying to rub his waterlogged fingers on my skin yelling out “ooey gooey fingers!” and would chase me till he caught me. His stepdad Paul, even caught him soaking them in the bathroom sink once to come after me!
As Avery started to get a bit older, he started to become more adventurous and fearless with bugs and spiders and snakes; which for a mom scared the living daylights out of me that he was going to pick up the “wrong one” someday, but not Avery, he somehow knew what he could and could not pick up, he was like his hero at the time, a little mini Steve Irwin! He would bring home praying mantises and have me put it in a container with a stick and leaves and we would go buy it crickets to eat just so he could watch it! He even, in most recent years, brought me a garter snake to the door, on Mother’s Day no less! On his 4th birthday we bought him his first spider, a Chilean Rose Hair tarantula that he named appropriately “Spidey”; which by the way lived for 10 years after we bought it! He has had other spiders, scorpions, a turtle, and snakes as pets and he loved every one of them! He loved his three dogs, Rocky, Dizzy, and Keagan. He was a pet person that is for sure!
Avery then started getting into Godzilla, I don’t know how he could stand the horrible productions of the Godzilla movies, but he loved it! He ended up with quite the collection of the Godzilla series. It was so exciting when he got into something specific, it made birthdays and Christmas so much fun because we knew we were getting something that he would absolutely love! There was many things that Avery took interest in like he did Godzilla, we knew we could never go wrong with dinosaurs, sharks, alligators, superheroes, fishing, hunting, and as he got older, the most recent years, the Walking Dead.
Avery also had a love for music! It was him that had to point out to me that one of the Pet Shop Boys songs was one Elvis did, how ashamed I was that, being the Elvis fan I am, my 11 year old son had to point this out to me! He liked having the music on in the car and always wanted cd’s made for him to listen to in his room.
When Avery was into something, he was really into something and he did it with all of his heart. Playing with his siblings and his cousins was probably the highlights for him. Along with times he got to spend with his daddy, his stepmom Nancy and the rest of the Kertamus family hunting, fishing, and camping. I am so glad he was able to get the full camping experience with his dad, because, honestly the closest thing to camping he got with me was going up Mill Creek Canyon for the day and having a campfire and doing hotdogs and marshmallows and roaming the trails. Avery also loved his “nerf wars” with his stepdad Paul and siblings Trevor, Chloe, and Tabi. I also need to say that his love for his little Lucy, although he tormented her, I know he loved her with all of his heart, because that is just how Avery is. He does not do anything half way, it is all or nothing.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in our latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.