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Real Life

REAL LIFE: Suzi received the call no mother wants to hear - now, she's honouring her son's life with an incredible initiative

''Almost three years have passed since Murray left us and my world is not the same.''

By As told to Take 5
Suzi Evans, 56, Mantung, SA, shares her heartbreak with Take 5
Turning the radio up, my favourite Jimmy Barnes track blasted through the speakers.
"There ain't no second prize," my son Murray, 27, chanted, joining me as I belted out the lyrics and we pranced around the kitchen.
Murray was my only child and I loved having him back home on our farm in South Australia.
Standing at more than 180cm tall, he was sensitive and caring – a real gentle giant.
My mum said he was like a big Labrador.
"It's like he walks in the room, turns around his tail and knocks everything over," she laughed.
Growing up, Murray struggled with dyslexia at school, but he always held his head high and battled through it.
I couldn't have been prouder of my boy, especially when he was voted student most likely to succeed as he graduated from Prince Alfred College.
And succeed he did – Murray went on to become a talented carpenter and no matter where he travelled for work, he was a real homebody and called me most days.
But deep down I was worried about Murray, now in his 20s, especially when my brother, who was working in Melbourne, texted me to say he suspected Murray was suffering from depression.
Murray at three years old. (Image: supplied)
Not that damn black dog again, I cursed.
Sadly, he'd suffered from bouts of depression sincehis father and I separated when he was just eight years old, and despite being treated by psychologists and medication, it occasionally reared its ugly head and Murray would go into a downward spiral.
Calling him to check in, I could tell he was going through a rough spot and he was trying to brush me off.
"I'm coming to see you and I'm bringing you home," I said, supportively.
"Don't be a wally, Mum," he replied. "I'll be fine."
But I didn't take no for an answer.
That day, I made a mercy dash to Adelaide airport and boarded the first flight.
I noticed that he'd lost weight and looked so tired and dishevelled.
I'd suspected he was using drugs but now I was with him, I could see it was true.
Murray didn't argue about coming back home and spent the first month eating and sleeping.
He'd always loved food so seeing him demolish the lamb chop and roasted vegie feasts I served up for him made my day.
"Food, I loves ya," he said, licking every last crumb off his plate.
My son battled with depression. (Image: supplied)
Murray had found his old, happy, hopeful self again and I cherished every moment we spent together, taking long walks and listening to our Jimmy Barnes classics.
We got to have a lot of time to chat, too.
Yet, a month later when Murray announced he was moving to the Gold Coast, I was shocked.
His father was a developer and he wanted to spend time working for him.
"I'll really miss you," I told him.
Unfortunately, the venture with his dad was short-lived, but Murray eventually found a place of his own and joined Alcoholics Anonymous, too.
"I've met some great people at the meetings," he told me.
Murray welcomed me with open arms when I flew to the Gold Coast to visit, and even introduced me to his new friends.
They were lovely and I hadn't seen Murray look so happy and healthy in years.
Watching him host one of the AA meetings, I couldn't believe how far he'd come.
Around this time Murray had a dream of setting up a respite camp for disabled children and their families, and my heart sang when he said he wanted to make it a reality.
"That sounds perfect," I said. "You've always loved helping others."
Time passed and Murray got married and bought a house.
He seemed to be loving life, but shortly after, he separated from his wife.
Murray's pop, Ken, and me (Image: supplied)
I tried to talk to him about it, but Murray shut the conversation down.
When I didn't hear from him the next day, alarm bells rang and his phone went straight to message bank.
I messaged again and there was no reply.
The next night, there was a knock at my door, and a police car in my driveway.
"I have bad news," the officer said.
Within a matter of seconds my world went blank as the officer told me my gentle giant had taken his life.
My husband, Mick, was a rock as I went through the motions – a dazed mess of grief – scrabbling to organise the funeral.
My only comfort was knowing the autopsy showed no signs of drugs or alcohol.
Murray been clean and sober for two years.
More than 300 people gathered as we laid Murray to rest just two months before his 30th birthday.
Playing our song Barnesy's No Second Prize, I heard my precious boy's voice in my mind, and pictured him dancing around the kitchen.
It was as though the song was written for him.
I've found a way of honouring my son. (Image: supplied)
Now, almost three years have passed since Murray left us and my world is not the same.
How can it be?
Losing my only son, I still had so much love to give, so I bought a Labrador pup and called him Wally, remembering how much Murray loved his nickname for me.
Mick and I also started a support group, Muzza's Happy Hour, for grieving families to honour my boy.
We've only had one meeting so far due to COVID restrictions, but we plan to roll them out across the state eventually.
I want it to be an informal gathering, to provide support for grieving families and reduce the stigma around grief and depression.
The pain of losing Murray is unimaginable but Muzza's Happy Hour makes me feel close to him.
Murray's dream of setting up his respite camp is now mine, too.
If I can help people through this support group, I feel like I'm honouring his legacy.

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