Where do we go from here?

When everyone listens to the podcast, they are left with that heavy feeling.

I always want them to know about the beautiful things I have shared with you this week.

This really is just a tiny drop in the bucket of this story. I could never tell you everything. It is unbelievable.

Connections.

Friendships.

Support.

Awareness.

Education.

Simple acts of effort.

And even laughter.

I was sent this screenshot and it still makes me laugh.

Our united effort was to not only memorialize John but also to publicly state the fact that one person lost is one too many.

I wanted to end this week with another group project because we have done that so well.

Tags.

Wildflowers.

Music.

They were all a part of celebrating the impact John had on your life.

I would love for us now to commit to educating ourselves.

Whether you know it or not, there is a John in your life. Maybe one in your mirror.

Educating myself helped me understand John and my own depression.

I saw a quote where a celebrity was asked about whether or not talking publicly about her depression was difficult. And she said that actually it was the opposite.

It was almost like every time she talked about it, she spit out a little of the poison.

One day this discussion group will be a thing of the past in your life.

When you look back on the impact of this podcast, I want it to be a turning point.

Just like it was for me. When I saw my own words out there by my friend Julia.

I want you to promise me this.

I want you to listen to the birds sing.

I want you to appreciate a sunset.

I want you to smile.

I want you to do all of those things that are an immense part of living and we take for granted.

And then when it rains.

You trip.

You run late.

I want you to work on your inner voice.

I want you to take a deep breath and shake it off.

I want you to forgive yourself.

But most of all I want you to keep going.

And know if you did it for no one else, you did it for John.

We are all now your forever friends because at some point or another we all live in a mental S-Town.

But it doesn’t even matter, if we are all in this together.

So many of you have said if I just could have talked to him.

I remember thanking Joy Langdon Gray in a private message for understanding that John had issues and still loving him.

Her reply has echoed in my head ever since, “We all have issues.”

Yes we do.

And he would love that.

So here’s to all of us and our issues.

If you can’t share your story, share his. Or share both.

And that’s all I have to say about that for tonight.

Meeting of S-Town Anonymous is now adjourned.

Beauty and the Bee…

When John introduced himself, he would say my friends call me John B.

The B. meant you were his friend.

We used the B. in several ways. It started with note cards.

I found 30+ business cards in John’s workshop over 2 years ago.

I mailed them out to people who were kind as a thank you. Needless to say, they were appreciated.

When I went to have some reprinted, I met David at the counter.

“Did you know him?”

I was nervous when I told him that I did know John.

I told him I was trying to help people and he said so was his sister Katie Beaugez. He asked if he could give her my number.

I am so thankful.

She has been a precious gift.

Katie B. (that is how she is stored in my phone) was a student at the University of Montevallo.

She also happened to be the grant coordinator for Alabama Suicide Prevention and Resource Coalition.

She was the first to say forgive yourself.

We met to brainstorm on several occasions about what we could do to promote suicide prevention in Alabama.

She encouraged me to take the at-home study course for QPR training.

She coached me through the presentation. She said people will forget a slideshow, but they will remember a story.

I have now spoken in over 10 cities in Alabama.

Every time I put a card in a new hand, you feel that John’s story is helping others.

People thank me.

I think you should thank Katie. Or maybe I should say Katie B.

She is now a counselor. And I know she is going to be a great one. I consider myself her first client.

And when she asked if I thought it was okay if she used the bee on her business card, I was thrilled.

Looking at it this morning, I am a little emotional. It is one more symbol of the ripple effect. One more beautiful sign that we are all in this together.

John’s story is told when I introduce myself thanks to Katie B.

My name is Cheryl Dodson and let me tell you why I am here today…

That is the beauty and the bee,

Love and big hugs,

Cheryl

To know John-You have to know about the Music…

The first time I remember seeing John B. McLemore, he was standing behind his mother. Believe it or not he was quiet.

He had been casually mentioned as a clock repairman and I told him I needed him to “fix” a clock I found at a yard sale.

She wanted gossip. He wanted to leave.

He seemed to be looking at me like he wasn’t sure if he was going to speak.

But once he did….

Pretty soon he would bust in the town hall walking sideways and blurting out whatever had been in his head all night.

He was a night owl.

White t-shirt.

Faded blue jeans.

Unbrushed bed hair.

Dirty glasses.

He would bring me CD’s wrapped in construction paper.

To Cheryl A.

From John B. ❤

John had a large music collection. I always felt it was a beautiful part of him that really was not shared in the podcast.

I introduced him to my friends Todd and Crystal and music was always our common ground. We had some fun.

Years later it would lead me to another friend who shared his love for music.

Andrew Warnberg.

It was so nice to hear new stories and laugh again.

The support group began.

My all-time favorite Andrew conversation.

And there were many.

I opened messenger today to replay the conversations.

I am so very thankful for him.

He gave me lots of advice. Good advice.

We lost Andrew to cancer this year. I wish I could capture in words what his friendship meant to me.

I can’t.

But I can show you what he felt we should do about John.

And I think we have.

And we still are.

Thank you for helping me do that.

All of you.

Big hugs. Big love. Big playlists.

Cheryl

I want to show you something…

When Ch. 7 ended of the S-Town podcast, there were so many questions.

At the time, everyone was so very emotional.

Local people were defensive. People who had lived a small town life and moved away were in agreement.

I remained silent on a lot of questions that I could have answered, but it was simply because I did not want to argue.

I think enough time has passed and I also think there is something many people need to know.

I look at the podcast differently now.

When I lost John, I lost my friend.

The painful thing is that he was not my first friend to lose to suicide.

I have lost several.

Each one was a beautiful individual with their own story.

John’s story is different in the fact that his voice and pain were documented. I have personally seen his story help others because people can relate to what he was feeling.

It is my hope that they can see that what they feel is not isolated inside them.

That is where we save lives.

If you want to share John’s story, use it to make a connection.

I challenge everyone of you to give him that legacy.

I know we all have an inner voice that doubts and fears.

I have found that when I am most vulnerable, I later became the most understood.

Things that were painful to share became the very way I connected.

Mostly, to a lot of you.

I want to thank you all for that.

And I want to show you the power of connection.

It started with private messages and ended with lifelong friends.

I expected a tag. Or some wildflower seeds. I never expected the sweet little notes and heartfelt encouragement.

Some of you have shared with me some painful things you have experienced.

We understood each other.

So if there are any who are struggling, this is what I want to show you.

As my precious friend Bec told me, “grief is love with nowhere to go”.

Somehow it came here to me.

How it ended up in my laundry room is strictly because I couldn’t pack it away.

But when I saw the door with all the names guarding this beauty, I thought it was appropriate.

So here is a little glimpse of the love from everywhere.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

This is why I wanted to share this week.

If you want to talk about John, let’s continue with what happened afterwards.

I think it is just as important.

Love to all,

Cheryl

Big baby…

I was walking into Foodland over 10 years ago.

A lady was sitting behind a table before you went in the entrance.

I think I thought she was selling doughnuts.

I asked what she was doing.

“I am signing people up to be foster parents.”

I wrote down my information.

She later told me that I was the only person that signed up.

I am so very thankful that I did.

I imagined a little six pound baby in my arms.

I got my groceries and plotted how to break the news to Jeff.

It was easier than you think.

Jeff loves kids. All kids. Hyper. Disabled. Angry. Even teenagers.

We try to count and never agree on the number that have been in our home.

Our kids are asked about their siblings and the answer is well- complicated.

His. Hers. Ours. Theirs. Foster. Adopted. Exchange. Short term. Permanent. Etc.

I can tell you stories that would rip your heart out. Jeff says they are not ours to share.

The past of a child is just that-Theirs.

And I agree.

But what I can tell you is this- your heart doesn’t have a fuel gauge.

It will never be full.

As a matter of fact, the more you love- the more you can.

As for the baby that I brought home ten years ago- he was 6’2, 300lbs., 14 and angry.

Not anymore.

For a while we were known as the blindside family, now we are just us.

And as far as my heart, it was almost as close to full as you can get today.

When he reached and smiled to hold his baby niece, life doesn’t get any better.

I wish I could capture the beauty, but a picture will have to do.

Thank you Lord for my brand new baby girl and my big baby boy,

Cheryl

The store porch…

It is funny what triggers your memory.

I walk in the store to pay for gas and I am as excited as a kid when I see a glass bottle.

All of a sudden I am seven years old and have been sent across the road to Freda’s.

The official name on the front of the store was Hunt’s Grocery.

Most of the time, we just said we were going to sit on the store porch.

We didn’t have to specify, there was only one.

And most of the time we just sat.

It didn’t seem like we had enough money to stay inside long.

And if you did, Mrs. Freda was bound to get onto you.

My first destination was the drink box.

I loved to open it up and stick my head in it. I can still smell the cold metal.

Drinks always seemed to be just beyond the reach of my arm.

It felt like I had to tiptoe to reach one.

About the time I had cold wet glass in my hand, I was already in trouble for leaving it open too long.

Then I would love to wander around dark aisles and stare at racks of Goody hair accessories that I did not know how to use. It seems like nobody else did either, because they were dusty.

If someone was at the register to distract her, I could make it back to the scales and the rack where you could tear off the butcher paper.

Those were fascinating. I have tried to think of a reason to purchase one.

Maybe a lifetime supply of gift wrap in butcher paper? The Christmas tree would look like I gave everyone a pack of hamburger meat.

I may have just found a reason!

Anyways.

One particular day Mother sent me across the road to put something on her charge account which we called our “ticket”.

Yours truly gets the bright idea to charge a bottle of fingernail polish (of all things) to Momma’s ticket.

Mrs. Freda looks about 9 feet tall on the other side of the counter.

“Did your mother give you permission to charge that?”

I lied and said “Yes”.

Uh-oh.

“Yes what?….” Double trouble.

I forgot to say “Yes, mam”.

I got out to the road, checked for cars, took a deep breath and braced myself to run across the road barefoot.

As the outside temperatures increased, so did my speed in crossing the road.

When I proudly gave mother her purple-brown fingernail polish, she was not impressed.

She told me to go right back over there and take that back.

Talk about a walk of shame, hanging my head and facing Mrs. Freda.

She was smug as she said, “Your mother didn’t say you could buy it, did she?

“No, mam….”

Over the years, Freda seemed to grow shorter and not so scary.

It was probably because I remembered to say “Mam” to her even if I said it to noone else.

She would rock on the porch and talk to whoever was in the next chair.

I would sit on the back corner and eavesdrop.

You could find out lots of things on that porch.

Who was fighting, honeymooning and drank too much. We shared everyone’s business but our own.

I think that was a rule.

If I could go back, I would run behind the mosquito truck and breathe in all the carcinogens again.

I believe the smoke must have helped our immune systems.

I would just love to go back to the store porch for the advice of everyone and better yet, I would love to ask for a few more memories. Tell me more.

There are so many things I forgot to ask.

When the cars go by faster now, noone is there to fuss about their speed.

It is an empty ghost of a building.

Don’t they know there should be a historical landmark sign there?

It was our community center, our neighborhood watch, and etiquette training classroom.

But mostly it was just ours.

It belonged to Mrs. Freda, but she shared it with everyone who crossed the road.

Here’s to dusty dark shelves, metal containers and paper sacks.

I wish I could shop there again just long enough to get in trouble.

Don’t laugh, or it makes it worse-

Cheryl Suzette

Stay tuned…

My favorite Father’s Day weekend was a few years ago.

It didn’t revolve around gifts. It was the toughest challenge of parenting- Discipline.

Our kids only loved it when it applied to someone other than themselves.

Our middle daughter Lea is continually teased for being Daddy’s favorite.

So it comes as no surprise that her brothers loved to be spectators of her being in trouble.

One big fib about her whereabouts late one night and a pair of short-shorts caused all of her siblings to chime in.

She happened to get grounded on the Saturday night before Father’s Day.

So as they visited, they had to comment.

“What did you think you were doing?”, asked our oldest Lauren.

“How’s it going party animal?”- big brother Jacob.

The famous, “I would never…” from little sister Reagen.

Lea took it all in stride with plenty of eye rolls.

But my favorite was finding out that when they found out she was in trouble, her older brothers were texting a play-by-play.

Jacob said when he got a text from Colby late on a Saturday night that said-

-Stay tuned-

-She has poked the bear-

He looked at his phone and the late time and he called for details. Still makes me laugh.

Jacob says Jeff knew what they were doing before they did it.

They would tell him where they were going and his reply would be, “Now where are you really going?”

We use all of these stories to warn Reagen and hopefully save us some energy.

Because we are tired now.

But we are proud of all of you.

(Minus the shorts that went into the trash.)

Happy Father’s Day to you Jeff Dodson.

I know our children are thankful for all of the times you said yes.

I, however, believe they benefitted the most from your love on the times you said “No”.

Looking forward to the grizzly bear becoming the teddy bear with our grandbabies.

It is a beautiful thing.

Now the “No” belongs to all of you.

Don’t laugh kids,

I am just kidding- (I already know that all of you do not think I am funny…)