By Sarah Wibell
The Annual Balloon Release in Madison will occur on Easter Sunday, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in remembrance of lost loved ones and as a way to release grief. Balloons will be provided at the recently restored Jonathan’s Bench, located in the Uncle Remus Regional Library’s Laughin’ Place Garden at 1121 East Avenue. Dedicated to Jonathan Marshall Morris who lost his struggle with mental illness in 2014, the bench was commissioned by his mother Beverly Morris and hand-built by sculptor Tom Prochnow. It bears an engraving: “My son, my sunshine, Jonathan Marshall Morris, for him and all the sons of the world, then, now and forever.”
Suicide has become an increasingly significant health problem. The National Institute for Mental Health shared a 2016 report from the Center for Disease Control in which “Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people … the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54 … (Additionally there) were more than twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19,362).”
While suicide awareness is a central piece to the event, anyone is welcome to release a provided balloon or bring their own balloon to let go in remembrance of loved ones. This memorial event encourages healing, and people from inside and outside of the county take part.
“The reason this (balloon release) is done…is for those grieving their loss to release their grief, think of deceased loved ones they miss, and release a balloon in their memory. And what better day to do that than Easter Sunday when we’re celebrating the resurrected Lord,” stated David Shytle, who is helping to organize this year’s event.
Individuals who wish to share their story or write a special message for their loved ones may do so in a book that will be set out on a table. Narratives and messages are frequently anonymous, although some people include their names. The following excerpts are shared with consent for publication in this article:
“The balloon release for Jonathan is such a special time. Coming together with others to remember him and to share our grief for those we have lost is so very meaningful. Watching the balloons lift into the sky and float away is a beautiful metaphor for letting go of grief and making room for joyful memories. I’m looking forward to it again this year. Thanks Beverly!! This is wonderful and meaningful!! This balloon is for Mom and Dad.”