This past weekend the social media world lost a brilliant and giving man, Trey Pennington. He took his life in the parking lot of a church. He left behind 6 kids. I did not know Trey well but knew of his work, his belief in people. He encouraged others to not give up and to find the strength to reach their goals.
His last tweet read: Sure am thankful for online friends who are real friends offline, too. Love you.
My dad committed suicide when I was 16 and up to now I have only shared such with very few. It isn't something that easily comes up at dinner events or networking parties.
I have kept the gap and pain inside. If nothing else, Trey has inspired me to release it for the small chance my experience can help someone else.
I read a beautiful post from Kris Colvin who was a friend of Trey's. In her post she talks about their friendship and the signs she saw as he neared the day he took his life. I visited his Facebook page and although I don't know him well, it does seem apparent that he was thinking such thoughts. Kris also talks about the fact her dad committed suicide and shared the gap she felt.
The death of Trey combined with Kris's post opened up a door I thought I had shut. I can relate fully to Kris's feelings in that life goes on but there is always a gap. For me it's a gap that can't be filled because I don't understand.
I will never forget the last time I saw my dad. My parents were divorced and he had come to visit. I can remember him leaving and crying. I can remember his words stating “someday you will understand, please know how much I love you.” I had no idea that it would be the last time I would see him, hug him or hear his voice. I didn't see it coming.
Trey posted a photo album of 75 photos to his Facebook wall just before he took his life. The album is filled with the “why” of his life, the people, not things that mattered most to him.
As I looked at the photos of his 6 children I can't help but hurt for them. For they are truly the ones who will miss out. Not sure if they saw it coming or not. However, the fact that it did happen has to be a shock. They feel a gap in their heart that will never be truly be filled.
A dad that won't get to see their next big event, school play, wedding or baby. I can remember having my uncle walk me down the aisle when I was married and desparately wishing my dad could have been there. When I look back it was dad who also missed out. I missed out, my kids miss out, their kids miss out.
When a person takes their life there is a gap that is left. There are missions left to conquer, conversations yet to have and lives left to change.
I believe there are many people hurting like Trey. It’s time to come out from behind the Klout score, busy travel schedule and let people know if we’re hurting, that you are about to give up. It's time we truly put our words into action regarding relationships online and offline.
I think Facebook's meaning of “friend” and “like” has somewhat devalued the meaning of friendship. We need to go back to the basics. To the real people in our lives both online and offline.
One of Trey's most recent posts included a quote from Zig as well as these words which have such deep meaning “Just use whatever gifts you have to help other people accomplish their dreams.”
If we focus on inspiring and helping others to not only succeed in business but to live life, to get up one more day, one more week and not quit, that is what matters. We must quit pretending everything is all okay when in reality we want to throw in the towel.
None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes and we never know what someone is going thru regardless of how perfect their life may look from the outside looking in.
My wish is that the social media community will somehow make good of the loss of such a good man. His loss can have an immediate and lasting impact if we can learn from it. It’s time we all get real with one another in deeper ways than we ever have done in the past. We need to come out from behind our own smiling avatars and let those we call “friends” truly help us when we need them. We need to also watch for and listen for the queues. Take time to educate ourselves on what the queues are if we have a friend who we know is suffering.
In reality I think Trey's legacy will live on for years. I think our eyes will be more open, our ears more aware and our hearts ready to share, trust and take a risk on a real human being. We can't always assume someone else is going to fix it. Yet, we must also realize we can't always fix it either. The best we can do is be there, be attentive and be the best friend we can be to those in our circles who need us.
We need to be cognizant of what influence really is. It's much deeper than a Klout score. It's not what we do to people in life that matter, it's what we do for them that enables a person to change their life for the better. It's not about getting the “like” but what how we can help them achieve their objectives and inspire them to be a better, happier person after the “like.”
I for one am committing to be a better friend both offline and online. If you have been on my list of people I owe a call to, expect to hear from me. I am not going to let a chapter end with a life of “shoulda, coulda, woulda's.” Let's finally have the conversation that commits us both to the social good we want to do in this world!
To all who inspire me every day, I thank you beyond words. I do have many real friends both online and offline. For those who text me, email me, and pick up my calls day and night, you are a gem. You are the sunshine of my days. I hope that I can also be yours and a brighter ray of sun and hope when you need it. xoxo
As my pastor always says every person needs at least two to three 2 am friends. Who are your 2 am friends? If you don't have one, look around. My guess there is someone willing to be that person if you simply take the time to let them.
Trey, I wish I could have had the chance to meet you in real life. I wish I would have taken the time to respond to the hundreds of follow friday tweets we were both included in. I wish I would have taken the time to tell you just seeing your smiling face or reading a post from you made me think and also smile. I hope that you now have the peace you were searching.
A faithful friend is the medicine of Life. Ecclesiates 6:16
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 10-12
p.s. I came back to back to share a link to the American Foundation for suicide prevention. There is a walk this week in Spartanburg, SC. This is a link to a team put together in Trey's honor “Trey's Light“. http://bit.ly/pFEJmQ
A few Other Sources Honoring Trey Pennington:
Honoring Trey Pennington – by Viveka Von Rosen @LinkedInExpert
Today My Little World Changed – by @KrisColvin
Social Media Leader Remembered -Video WYFF News
Heartbroken – by Olivier Blanchard @thebrandbuilder
Social Media, Suicide, & Ending the Taboo on Discussing Mental Illness – Shel Holtz