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Mother of deceased NCC student spreads suicide awareness

“Every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide; every 41 seconds there’s family that’s left asking ‘why.’"

Richard Tylor Paul Holmes was born Dec. 11, 1989 in Bethlehem. Called “Tylor” by family and friends, he was known as someone who lived life to the fullest. He did well in school and loved to play basketball and football. He always told his younger brothers to be leaders, not followers, to get an education and be somebody.

   Laughing and playing pranks was his forte. Always surrounded by friends, he valued loyalty. Tylor graduated from Northampton Community College in January 2011. Studying business, he continued on to Moravian College for his bachelor’s.

   On July 8, 2012 on Union Boulevard in Bethlehem, Tylor took his life in his vehicle with a gun he purchased that morning. He was enrolled in summer classes at NCC at the time and would have graduated from Kutztown University in May 2013.

   Sitting at her kitchen table in West Bethlehem, wearing a white T-Holmes Foundation T-shirt, Diane Holmes talks about her son’s life and death, and what she is inspired to do to avoid similar tragedies.

   Founded in March of 2013, the T-Holmes Foundation is a nonprofit organization promoting awareness and prevention of suicide, and offering a sense of understanding for those who endure the suicide of a loved one.

   “Everybody thinks it can’t happen to you; it’s always the person next door,” she says. “I thought the same thing. I’ve known people that have passed by suicide. I just never saw myself living or walking in those shoes, and when it happened to me, with a child who I never ever expected it from … it proved to me that it can happen to anybody.”

   The T-Holmes Foundation seeks to remove the “stigma” associated with suicide that breeds silence.

   “I realized, when Tylor passed, that all the people that I’d known that died by suicide weren’t talked about anymore,” says Holmes, a medical assistant. “I had somebody who I would hang out with when we were seniors in high school. He took his life and I couldn’t talk about him anymore.

   “You wouldn’t talk about it because of the stigma that was attached to suicide.  I didn’t want that to be Tylor’s legacy. I didn’t want him to be forgotten.”

   Although she is not a professional, Holmes hopes to help individuals who may be contemplating suicide by telling Tylor’s story. She has even had people hold Tylor’s ashes to convince them that suicide is not the right way to end their pain.

   What advice would she give to someone considering suicide?

    “Come sit with me for an hour… and hear my son’s story,” Holmes says. “Look what I have left of my child. Those who I have talked to and have come to our home got to meet Tylor through his pictures and through me and his brothers and his dad. I literally had them hold Tylor’s ashes on their laps. I knew I had to do something to prevent this from happening to somebody else. It’s education — changing the stigma.”

   Another purpose of the foundation is to offer a safe, supportive environment for families and friends who have lost loved ones to suicide.

  “Whether it just be support, understanding, a hug, helping them with anything, even helping pay funeral costs,” Holmes elaborates. “He (Tylor) was 22 years old. Who expects to bury their child? No parent should ever bury their child. No grandparent should ever bury their grandchild.”

   The cost of Tylor’s funeral was covered entirely by donations, some from people who his mother didn’t even know.

   Holmes’s emotional scars may not be visible, but the pain in her voice as she tells his story is more than enough to cause her listeners to tear up.

   Says Holmes: “I lost my job, my friends disappeared, and everybody’s at your door when you’re going through your grieving, and once the viewing was over, there was nobody around. Not even my friends. That was really hard, and I didn’t know, when Tylor died that day, a piece of me died that day.

   “And I was reborn into somebody who I had to re-establish and find my identity. I had to learn on my own how to cope. I had to learn to re-establish myself and find my identity and find new friends. It took me months to find a new job until I was ready to go back to work. I have post-traumatic stress, hearing the gunshot, and finding my child and watching him go.”

   Behind all the pain, the Holmes family found a way to turn Tylor’s death into something positive.

   “It brought us closer,” Holmes says. “We’ve always been a close family, but we are closer now. It builds strength and character, I believe, and a different understanding of life. I think my boys are more compassionate. They don’t take life for granted like so many people do.”

   As for herself, she says, “I never had a backbone; I would always let people walk all over me. I think part of Tylor jumped into me. I don’t let anyone walk all over me. I’m heartbroken, but I’m doing all I can to take a tragic negative and try to make it into a positive for somebody else.”

   The T-Holmes Foundation is sponsoring a memorial tribute to Tylor called The Last Ride Continues, to be held July 13at Lower Saucon Park in Lower Saucon Township, Bethlehem.

   Another Holmes initiative is The T-Holmes Helping Hands, which holds an annual Christmas event to collect Christmas cards for the elderly at Sacred Heart Senior Living, a nursing home where Tylor once worked. The event grew to serve eight nursing homes and two women’s shelters in its first year, collecting 2,400 Christmas cards. The next year, 2,700 Christmas cards were collected.

   Holmes recalls how her son worked one Christmas at the nursing home.

   “He worked because he didn’t want his residents to be alone,” she says. “He loved his residents.”

   Tylor Holmes also left behind his father, Richard Holmes, a police officer at Lehigh University, and his brothers Marcus, 28, Ryan, 22, Randy, 20 and Reece, 15. Tylor would have been 24 years old this year.

   “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” Holmes says. “Every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide; every 41 seconds there’s family that’s left asking ‘why.’ Suicide is not contagious. It can happen to anybody.” 

   Anyone interested in volunteering for any of these events or to donate money or supplies is encouraged to visit thetholmesfoundation.org, thetholmesfoundation.com, their Facebook “like” page and join their Facebook group page, The T-Holmes Helping Hands.

Video made by Diane Holmes to introduce Tylor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr_pTQz-s60

Tylor graduating from NCC in 2011: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cJx8HG5jzI