BUTTE – The flying lantern ceremony is a bit of light for those in dark times.
“It really warms your heart and for those of us who have an emptiness inside it somehow fills that void if only for a short period of time,” said Bill Wheeler.
That void came to the Wheeler family on New Year’s day 2014 when their 15-year-old son, Jacob, took his own life.
“Grief in itself is difficult but suicide adds a whole other dimension to grief and so people who don’t understand it and haven’t been through it are not able to identify with the type of grief that we’re going through,” said Wheeler.
For years the Wheelers have hosted the lantern lighting ceremony at the Original Mine Yard on New Year’s Day for people who’ve lost loved ones to suicide.
“People come away with just a feeling of overwhelming peace and healing from the event,” he said.
Montana is a beautiful state, but it has the ugly distinction of having the highest suicide rate in the nation and that’s why organizers of this event want to bring awareness to suicide so that people can openly talk about the problem.
“Until we get to the point where people can talk about their mental health issues the same way they talk about diabetes or cancer or some other physical ailment there will also be that stigma attached,” said Wheeler.