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A letter to Leo

13 September 2021

A letter to Leo

The things I wish I’d said

Words Sandra Pawar

World Suicide Prevention Day was observed on 10 September. Every year, the day focuses on raising awareness of suicide in our communities and identifying where and how we can work collaboratively towards a world without suicide. In her reflection below, Sandra Pawar writes a letter to her friend Leo, sharing the words she wished she’d spoken to him before he tragically took his own life.

Leo, what I wish I could have told you:

I remember the moment in time so clearly; in fact, I would love to forget it, but I never will. It was a moment that shook my world and caused incredible sorrow and grief. It was late March in 2019. In the middle of the night, my phone rang and woke me from a deep sleep. All it took was a two-minute call to change my life and the life of so many others who loved my friend Leo. A friend was calling to let me know that my beautiful and precious friend Leo had committed suicide. It knocked the air out of me. I had just spoken to him a few days before and, although he was going through a hard time, he seemed to be strong and making plans for the future. There are so many things I wish I could have told him before he passed away, and so I am going to use this space to share those words. I hope that if anyone else may feel like death is their only option, they will see these words and know there is hope.

Dear Leo,

I would tell you that you are so loved. Not just by me, but by so many people who know you. They love you, not because you are perfect or have it all together, but because you add joy to their lives. They love you because you care not only for them but also for their children. They love you because you make their life better. I only wish you had known just how deeply loved you were and how your death would devastate so many people.

I would tell you that God loves you deeply, truly, madly. You are his precious child. He is proud of you. Even in all the junk and mistakes and sin, he never stopped loving you. He never stopped claiming you as his child. I would tell you things that you already knew – that nothing could ever separate you from God’s love, that he is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and quick to forgive. I would tell you that you were the apple of his eye, and [your name was] engraved on his palms. You were his son, and his love for you was never-ending.

I would tell you that this too shall pass. I would acknowledge the pain you were going through and the hard times you were facing. I would allow you to weep for dreams lost and plans changed, but then I would tell you that things will get better. I would tell you that this is just a small chapter in your life story and that there are still so many chapters to be written. I would tell you that God has good plans still ahead for you and that he has not forgotten or forsaken you.

I would mainly just tell you how much I love you and how thankful I am for you. I would thank you for choosing to be my friend. No, more than that, I would say thank you for becoming my family. I would thank you for always checking in with me and making sure I was okay.  I would thank you for making me constantly laugh and for always bringing joy into my life. I would thank you for inspiring me with your faith in Jesus and your deep love for others. Thank you for being you.

Lastly, I would just tell you that you are valued, your life is precious and that you will be missed more than you could ever imagine. I would tell you to hold on and not give up. I would tell you that you need to stay with us because you make a difference in this world, and this world needs you.

Sandra Pawar is a Salvation Army officer in Sydney.

Suicide at a glance

  • Nine Australians die every day by suicide. That’s more than double the road toll.
  • 75% of those who take their own life are male.
  • Over 65,000 Australians attempt suicide each year.
  • In 2019, 3318 Australians took their own life.
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.
  • The suicide rate in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is twice that of their non-Indigenous counterparts.
  • People in rural populations are twice as likely to die by suicide.
  • LGBTIQA+ community members experience significantly higher rates of suicide than the rest of the population.
  • For each life lost to suicide, the impacts are felt by up to 135 people, including family members, work colleagues, friends, first responders at the time of death.
  • Males aged 85 and older experience the highest age-specific rate of suicide.
  • Same gender-attracted Australians are estimated to experience up to 14 times higher rates of attempted suicide than their heterosexual peers.
  • 1 in 4 Australians are lonely and have no one to speak to.

Help is at hand



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