Family opens home, hearts in memory of their daughter
Suicide is the 10th most common cause of death nationwide, with one person becoming a victim to suicide every 11.9 seconds.
Sunday was World Suicide Prevention Day, kicking off National Suicide Prevention Week Sept. 10-16.
The occasion was marked locally as a Luverne couple thinks one person lost to suicide is one person too many.
Tony and Wendy Gacke opened their home and are sharing their story of heartbreak at the suicide death of their 13-year-old daughter Daniella in June.
The couple is struggling with the emotions surrounding losing their youngest child and are reaching out to students at Luverne Middle/High School as the new school year starts without Daniella.
Emotions were shared Sunday in the first of three events organized by the Gackes called “Rock It With Dani.” The second event was Monday night.
The events invited students and adults to the Gacke acreage south of Luverne, where they added a painted rock to the family’s memorial garden. They shared stories and ate s’mores as the painted rocks dried.
The events are meant to help the Gacke family and others heal and understand that suicide is not an answer to problems.
“Hopefully it does something good,” Tony said.
One life lost to suicide is too many.
“Our sole goal is to prevent at least one family from going through what we are going through,” Wendy said. “To let our children know they are enough. They are unconditionally loved.”
The last “Rock It with Dani” event is planned tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for Daniella’s eighth-grade classmates. The Gackes’ acreage is located at 549 150th Ave.
No one knows why Daniella chose to end her life on June 15, Wendy said.
Depression, bullying, social media environment or emotional struggles often preclude suicides, but Daniella didn’t exhibit the usual signs.
“We will never know why and will always live with the pain,” Wendy said. “Whatever she was going through, she was not strong enough.”
Strength is what the Gackes are reaching out with as they grieve and learn more about suicide.
One lesson has come forth through their own counseling and is one they want all teenagers to remember.
“There is no problem that makes you unloved,” she said.
The Gackes will carry that message as they participate in the “Out of Darkness Walks,” an event hosted by the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.
The Saturday, Sept. 23, event takes place at Terrace Park in Sioux Falls. Registration begins at 9 a.m. for the 10 a.m. walk.
The walk brings awareness and raises money for new research, educational programs and support for survivors of suicide loss.
The Gackes feel fortunate as they deal with their own personal loss for years to come.
“We feel fortunate to live in a very supportive community while we process our grief,” Wendy said.