DERRY — Susan Markievitz clutched her son's journal as she prepared to speak. Losing her son Chad in 2014 still makes her heart ache.
Markievitz was among several guest speakers sharing personal stories as part of a candlelight vigil in Derry's MacGregor Park on Aug. 29. Markievitz, along with other mothers who have lost loved ones to addiction or suicide, helped spearhead the vigils from the beginning.
Derry's vigil was one of six taking place around the state, organized by 10,000 Candles for New Hampshire. The annual vigil was a way to honor those battling addiction, remember those lost and to bring communities together to show support.
For Markievitz, each year that passes is still hard, but now as an advocate, she wants to continue to work to bring hope to those who are struggling.
"I'm a strong advocate for anyone who has lost a loved one," she said. "I'm more than happy to listen. All you need is to have somebody listen."
During the recent event, Markievitz shared Chad's words about growing up the youngest of four boys, and saying his father did everything for him. She always reads from his journal.
She shared Chad's words about his struggles with heroin addiction and how he was working so hard to beat the demons.
"But like anything, it didn't work," Markievitz said.
Her son wrote a letter as he was working towards recovery, telling his family how much they meant to him.
"Through all this turmoil, you never stopped loving me," Chad wrote. "I cared, but I didn't care. In my heart I knew what I was doing was wrong, but once I started it took me over. You can't heal me, only I can do that. Keep your heart open to me."
Markievitz said it's been five years since Chad's death, but every year the family marks the occasion with a lobster/steamer dinner, her son's favorite.
"Even though we lost him to such a horrible thing, it's okay," she said.
Other guest speakers included Rob Clemente, who is now in recovery, and Derry emergency first responder Todd Donovan, who deals with depression and suicidal ideation.
Donovan spoke of numerous suicide attempts in his life, beginning at the age of 8.
He said he grew up in a great family and never "had any reason to be depressed."
But the illness did take over, he said, adding through the years he has worked hard to make the connections and get the help he needs.
"Treatment works, connections work, there are people out there to help," Donovan said.
Lisa Walsh lost her son Shane in 2016 to a fentanyl overdose. She said every year she hopes the vigil will speak to someone needing help and that everyone is supported and finding that connection.
"I always hope a new family will come and feel less alone," Walsh said.
The vigil concluded with candlelight in the park.