Son’s death gives birth to support group — (West Hawaii Today)

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West Hawaii Today

Sunday, December 07, 2003

By COLLEEN MARSHALL,  West Hawaii Today

When Jon Nobles was 4 he walked into the kitchen Christmas Eve morning and declared Santa would bring him a guitar.
“It’s Santa, he knows what I want,” he told his mother, Mimi Miller after she panicked and reminded him he never put the item on any of his lengthy lists to St. Nick.
A late – night trip to the store provided the coveted gift beneath the tree and the next morning the pajama – clad youth turned to her and declared, “You see. I told you Santa knows everything.”
It’s a memory that Miller treasures and shares with a laugh, as just a trace of tears fills her eyes. There would be 20 more years of memories – Christmases, birthdays, family celebrations and what were then simple days with a hug or a joke accepted without much thought. Now they are treasured.
Every day since March 25, 1998, is another without Jon Nobles, her first-born.
Miller, a 13 – year Kona resident, talks about her son’s suicide in an even and frank tone though it were a story of someone else’s child, someone else’s loss. However, it is a reality she relives each day, one she has shared often in an attempt to help others – as well as help herself – to heal.
Jon Nobles, an EMT studying to become a paramedic, called her from his Santa Cruz, Calif., home to say he had been cut at work with an instrument used on an HIV positive patient. Already on medication for anxiety and slight depression, he was extremely concerned he was infected and would pass the virus to his wife of 20 months, 23 – year – old Shira.
A few hours later, Miller received another telephone call. Her son was dead.
“He was a fine, strong person,” she said. “He was a hunter, fisherman, an archer. He was fearless. I call him my joyful jokester. He just kept people laughing. He was an amazing guy.”
The wedding video she once watched again and again never shows anything new about her son, so she refrains now from putting it in the VCR. Instead Miller said she relies upon and cherishes memories his friends and family members share. She also treasures her recollections, how astonished he was to realize that cows had legs after putting on his first pair of eyeglasses, how his blonde hair smelled like shampoo and sweat as a youngster and how, more recently, he was going to train his Labrador puppy to hunt.
“It will never be OK. It will never go away. You have to learn to live with it,” she said. “It’s a whole different life, but I’m not without Jon. I still remember him, so I’m never really without him. He’s not my son who has died. He’s my son who lived.”
After his death, she turned to fellow West Hawaii resident Ardeth Weed, whose 21 – year – old daughter was fatally injured by an automobile, and the pair formed a Big Island group of Compassionate Friends. That national organization is a self – help support group for bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings.
It has helped her continue mourning, and continue on with her life. A life now combined with tears, but laughter and good times, as well.
“Ardeth once compared losing children to losing a limb. People come and surround you, but in a couple of weeks it becomes less and less. Then in a couple of months they stop talking about it because they don’t want to remind you. Like you need to be reminded,” she said, with a smile and short laugh. “People don’t want to mention your disability because it’s awkward. It’s a wound and there is scarring and it will always be tender in some ways. There are times when you reach for something and realize it’s not there. You learn to live without it, and you have a good life, but you will always miss it and you will always wish it was there.”
This year Miller and Weed once again are coordinating the Compassionate Friends’ annual candle lighting ceremony, scheduled for 6 – 8 p.m. Dec. 14 at Jonathan’s Park, located at Keauhou Bay at the end of Kamehameha III Road. During the informal event, parents and grandparents are encouraged, but not required, to share memories of their child or grandchildren and also light a candle to celebrate the holiday season with them.
“It’s not a sad day,” Miller said. “It’s not a bunch of people grieving and mourning. It’s a celebration of their lives and it’s a way to include them in the holiday season. It’s not morose in any way.”
On the first anniversary of her son’s death, Miller put an advertisement in the newspaper urging his friends to remember him in a way he would want to be remembered: Tell a joke, smile at a story, laugh out loud.
It’s is something she tries to do for Jon and what she hopes people do with their own friends and family – every day.
cmarshall@westhawaiitoday.com
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Contacts:
Mimi Miller: 987 – 1066
Ardeth Weed: 322 – 2243
www.compassionatefriends.org