melodee tonti


the one about happy memories and tragic loss

frightened rabbit.JPG

One night in March 2013, I stuffed my post-baby body into a pair of jeans that I thought made me look reasonably human, attempted to put on makeup, ran out of time to address my hair, and threw it into a very sad, soaking wet mom bun, and left the house without my baby for the first time since he was born, nearly three months earlier. I was well over my pre-pregnancy weight, wearing a nursing bra, stuffed with nursing pads, as I was pumping every couple of hours, and this long night out was about to really piss my body off. As I was getting ready, I very nearly changed my mind. The last place that I wanted to take this mess staring back at me, from puffy, dark-ringed eyes, was a concert in LA, with a bunch of young, beautiful people, wearing shirts that had never had a drop of spit-up on them. Somehow I got myself out the door. Somehow I managed not to cry in the car on the way. Mostly. Hormones, man. They have no mercy.

My incentive to face clothes that weren’t yoga pants and finding parking in LA? A band called Frightened Rabbit. A longtime favorite of mine, I had been thrilled to know they would be coming to LA (they are from Scotland). I talked myself out of hiding in the bathroom or bolting to the car many times as we waited for the show and listened to the opening act. I’m so glad that I didn’t bolt. As soon as the lights went down and their set began, any anxieties I had faded away. The show was amazing. They were as awesome as I had hoped they would be. And despite my kids saying that I listen to “sad bastard” music, the show was actually very fun. They played a song called “Old, Old Fashioned”, which I had forgotten about. That night, I would go home and use that song as I bounced and soothed Charlie when he couldn’t sleep, and it worked like magic. It would be used again every day (about 30 times) for the next two years, and on an as needed basis for much longer than that. That song is forever woven into the fabric of my memories of my son. Just hearing the first notes, to this day, take me right back to those moments.

Music has always been that way for me, the closest approximation of a time machine that one can get. An essential part of my life, and more importantly, my well-being. And this band provided the soundtrack to so much in the last ten years of my life, good and bad. Each song holds a good memory or pang of heartache right beneath the surface for me.

A couple of days ago, the man that sang of love, heartbreak, sadness, struggling with mental health, and trying to make sense of it when it is all muddled together, walked out into the night, alone, and never came back. In a moment where the lies that depression tells just got too big, Scott Hutchison took his own life. For the three days he was missing, I refreshed the posts and news on my phone over and over, hoping for good news. When I saw that they had found his body, the wind was knocked right out of me. It was an unexpectedly visceral reaction to the loss of a man that I had never known. And I am still feeling broken as I type this. Heartbroken for a soul that fought so hard for so long, but was still crushed under the weight of depression. A soul that I will mourn tonight, despite never meeting face to face. Scott, thank you so much for all you have contributed to my life and for choosing to share of yourself so openly. Your music has meant a great deal to me, and so many others, and you will be missed. 

As I sit here, after hearing about three families affected by suicide, this week alone, seeing the unbearable pain and loss, and being angry at what depression can rip away, I am driven to pursue a project that I have been wanting to start for awhile. I have been afraid to start this project, as I am terrible at asking people for things. But after this week, I feel compelled to leave my comfort zone and ask. If you have lost a loved one to suicide and would be open to speaking about them and being photographed, please send me an email. I will speak more about the project soon, but for now, I just want to use the push of this sadness and helplessness that I feel to get this project started. I want to make a positive contribution to the conversation about depression and doing all we can to prevent tragic losses like these, and I would love your help.