Memorial Unites Familes Left Behind
By Denise D. Tucker, The Argus Leader, December 13, 2002
(to read other articles, click here)

Loved ones of suicide victims connect, share pain

Today would have been Travis Eisenberg’s 23rd birthday.
On Thursday night, his grandparents, Don and Betty Eisenberg of Sioux Falls, took a moment to write him a note and hang it and his picture on a Memory Tree.
Tucked away in the backyard of Brenda Reeves’ east-side home are two evergreens connected by strings of white lights. They are Memory Trees of Light dedicated to victims and survivors of suicide. The setting is designed to comfort survivors and provide a place for them to meditate.
“It couldn’t have been more appropriate,” Don Eisenberg said of the timing for the Reeves tree dedication at 1413 E. Fifth St.
Dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief, Betty Eisenberg said she guessed the picture of her grandson was from junior high school.
“He looked just like that when he killed himself, but he was a little bigger and heavier,” she said.
Travis Eisenberg died July 17, 1997.
“Five years after the fact, and your heart is still heavy yet,” she said. “Suicide is a terrible thing, and those who do it don't think of the aftermath. If you think we’re bad, you ought to see his folks. I don't think they’ll get over it. I know his mother won’t.”
Seventeen people gathered in Reeves’ back yard. Some brought pictures and hung up tags with messages.
The Memory Trees of Light program has been around nationally for five years, but Reeves learned about it just two weeks ago on the Internet. “I thought it was a nice gift to give other survivors — a place to reflect,” she said.
Those who died are not lost in vain, she said. Putting their names and pictures on trees gives a face to suicide.
Reeves knows firsthand of losing a loved one. Her nephew Jay Jacobson took his life March 4. He was 23.
People are welcome anytime in her back yard at the Memory Trees of Light. “All of Sioux Falls and South Dakota should see them,” she said. “They create awareness, and with awareness comes prevention.”
Reeves was happy with the turnout for the dedication. One man tried to give her money, but she turned him down.
“This is my gift to them, to let them know they’re OK here and safe here,” she said. “We have something in common, as bad as it is. . . . When you share tears with somebody in a similar situation, it touches your heart pretty good.”
She would like to put a bench by the trees, which will display the pictures and information tags year-round.
“I think it's very kind of Brenda,” said Lee Kennedy. “I think it’s important to do something like this. Brenda opened up her heart and home to strangers. We know no one is a stranger. Our connection is what happened in our lives.”
Kennedy and her husband, Tom, were taking a step toward healing from the loss of their youngest daughter, Amanda. She was 18 when she died from an overdose in April.
“I think suicide makes you feel so helpless,” Kennedy said. “It’s a secret type of thing people don't want to talk about. There is a stigma to it.”
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