A mother turns her devastating loss into a mission

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Tears fell from Tammy McKenna's eyes as she talked about her son, Blake.

"He was very passionate about church, he loved God," McKenna said. "He was happy, he wanted everyone else to be happy. If you were down he was the person you wanted around to cheer you up."

Blake was a junior at Long Beach High School. He played football and was supposed to be the starting quarterback this year. He wanted to join the military and be in the special forces like his dad. Then one day he hoped to take over his grandfather's automotive shop.

"He had gone to church Wednesday night, had a great time," McKenna said. "He made plans with his friends for the weekend. He was getting his license on Monday and was excited about it. Thursday morning, he told us he loved us and kissed us goodbye like normal."

After his parents left for work Blake, got a gun and committed suicide.

"It was numbing at first, it was disbelief," McKenna said. "It was not like he was depressed. Everybody you would talk to would say Blake and his smile."

What made the weeks and months that followed even tougher was her family felt so alone. There is no support group or recovery center around to help them deal with their loss.

"I needed that so desperately because suicide death is so different than any other," McKenna said.

Now, nearly nine months later, McKenna has started a support group. The Light Keepers met for the first time Thursday.

"It was good for us," McKenna said. "There was a lot of tears, some laughter, a lot of bonding and we hope the group grows because we all need it."

By starting this group, she feels she is doing what her son would have wanted - helping others and at the same time helping herself heal.

Blake's friends have also helped his family heal, they call and visit often. After Blake's death, his family learned just how much of an impact he made on his friends.

"He got his lunch table to pray every day and that is something we didn't even know about. Blake never came home and bragged about that stuff," McKenna said. "They said, 'You know Mrs. McKenna, we are going to keep this on.'"

Several of his friends created a group at Long Beach High in his honor called "Be the Difference."

"They want to create a support group for anyone thinking of suicide or anyone that feels like they are bullied or just need someone who has their back," McKenna said. "They feel it is so important because they don't want to see any more of their friends take their lives."

His football teammates released balloons before senior night and the quarterback traded in his jersey to wear Blake's number 5.

"He would score a touchdown and point up there and point at me and just to let me know it's for Blake," McKenna said with tears in her eyes.

By keeping Blake's memory alive his friends and family hope others will think twice before bullying anyone.

"I really want kids to understand that things you say and things you do have such an impact on somebody," McKenna said.

Saturday is National Survivors of Suicide Day. McKenna is holding a walk and everyone is invited. It's at 3pm at the Long Beach Rec Center.

For more information on The Light Keepers Support Group for Survivors of Suicide, visit: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/1458431427716184/

or email McKenna at TheLightKeepersMS@gmail.com

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