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Maine mom uses social media to scatter son's ashes

AUBURN, Maine (AP) - For 3 ½ years, a black stone urn of C.J.'s Twomey's ashes has sat on a shelf in his parents' Maine home, not far from the door he walked out of one beautiful April day and shot himself.

Now, his mother is using social media to enlist the help of strangers to scatter his ashes from Massachusetts to Japan in the hope that her adventure-loving son can become part of the world he left behind.

"I don't want him to have to sit in an urn for my benefit for whatever rest of time that we have," Hallie Twomey said. "I wanted to give him something. I'm trying to give him a journey."

It started with a simple request on Facebook to help C.J. - who was only 20 when he died - "see the mountains that he never got to climb, see the vast oceans that he would have loved, see tropical beaches and lands far and away."

The post was shared by nearly 100 of her friends, and soon even strangers started offering to scatter C.J.'s ashes in their hometowns, on family vacations or just somewhere beautiful. She started a separate Facebook page called "Scattering C.J.," which now has more than 1,000 likes.

The pictures and videos on Facebook tell the story of where C.J. has been. A man scatters C.J's ashes on a beach in Massachusetts. One sprinkles them in the forest in Jamaica, and another off a rocky cliff in Hawaii.

Along with his ashes, Twomey sends a note and a small photo of smiling C.J., wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt with sunglasses propped up on his head. She asks the recipient to do four things: Think about C.J., think about the people he gave life to through organ donation, tell him that his mom and dad loved him and tell him that his mom is sorry.

Twomey regrets rolling her eyes at her son instead of hugging him as he stormed out of their home after an argument. A few minutes later, C.J. shot himself in his car in front of the home, she said.

C.J., who thrived on adventure like jumping out of airplanes, was upset about not making a special forces team with the Air Force, she said. After being honorably discharged, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do with his life, she said. But she never thought he would do what he did that day.

Last week, C.J. was sent to Haiti and India and soon someone plans to take him to the top of Mt. Everest, Twomey said. About 150 packets of his ashes have traveled so far and 300 other people have offered to share in CJ's journey. When most of C.J.'s ashes have been scattered, Twomey hopes to put together a book with all the notes and photos people have sent her. The proceeds would go to the New England Organ Bank, she said.

Many of those offering to help scatter C.J.'s ashes have also been affected by suicide or lost children. The kindness has been overwhelming, she said.

"Really, why would a complete stranger want to help us?" she said. "I really think people are doing whatever they can, even if it's a small thing, to ease our burden or to embrace life."

Jessica Hale, who lives in Juneau, Alaska, heard about C.J.'s mom's idea from her sister, one of Twomey's neighbors. She was struck by how much she had in common with C.J. Hale is also a veteran and says she has contemplated suicide.

Seeing the impact C.J.'s death has had on Twomey's family opened her eyes to the immense hurt suicide leaves to those who are left behind, said Hale, a 37-year-old security guard.

"It made me realize that I couldn't do that, and it made me make a promise to myself that I would never do that."

Hale scattered C.J.'s ashes near a rocky beach in Juneau that reminded her of a picture she saw on Facebook of Twomey's family when C.J. was still alive.

"I feel like I had closure ... some inner peace after that," she said.

For Twomey, finding peace has proved more difficult.

"I want to find peace in this. I want to feel better, but my guilt is so intense so I haven't yet. I don't know if it will," she said. "I hope. I just have hope that maybe this will help in some way, because for 3 1/2 years, nothing has."


Follow Alanna Durkin on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aedurkin

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arenadood December 22 2013 at 4:59 PM

It was not you that was responsible, it was totally his choice. No matter what you may have done, the inevitable happened. I do feel for your loss, but do not live with his choice on your shoulders. Remember the good times you had with him growing up. You are doing an honorable thing, now it is your time to live your life by letting go in this way. May you live with peace of mind.

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Barbara arenadood December 22 2013 at 5:11 PM

Well said.

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Elaine December 22 2013 at 9:36 PM

May God bless you and your son. May you both rest in peace.

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Blessed December 22 2013 at 7:53 PM

Oh my gawd Mom, I swear my hand to you that your and CJ's argument was NOT the " thing that pushed him over the edge" , Dear woman! I don't care if you even said " I hate you "-it was NOT that! No one knows ( nor will we ever truly know ) the depths of the human spirit. People see, do and experience things that would cause one person to end their own life while it leaves another almost unscathed! That is just how it IS! Forgiving yourself can ONLY come to you when YOU decide to do so; it's like sticking to a diet or stopping smoking-it won't happen until YOU yourself set you free. Please give a stranger ( me - Hi, my name is Jackie ) a gift this Holiday Season; please give me your word that you will take a deep breath, say ( out loud ) " I forgive me and I forgive CJ " and then you will begin to heal. I don't know you but I love you. I Pray nothing but Peace and God's Best to you and your Family always. Happy Christmas, friend! If you ever want to talk, JTJrFan8@aol.com-any time. Bless you!

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bejit22 Blessed December 23 2013 at 6:54 AM

This is a wonderful thing to say Jackie. I hope the mom reads this.

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victoriagolfgirl December 22 2013 at 7:33 PM

God help you ease your burden and aswage your guilty feeling. I, too, have grieved for 3 1/2 years for my son who died from bone marrow cancer. I cared for him the last four months of his life. Never complaining, one day he said to me, "Mom, I'm scared". I, who listens to everyone's troubles, only replied that I was scared too. I know he is not scared now. But I carry the guilt. He is whole again and the cancer didn't win in the end.. CJ is whole again from the hurting. He was hurting way before that day. I volunteer in remembrance of my son. It gives me solace in between the times I am crying. Your mission is noble. CJ would be in awe at your love.

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thesheaffers4 victoriagolfgirl December 22 2013 at 10:02 PM

Hi, I too lost my son to brain cancer 1 1/2 years ago and find these times especially difficult. Wes was such a brave and courageous guy as I'm sure your son was as well. The strongest help I get is when I know he is now in the hands and a direct servant and angel of God. And that he is with so many of his family that passed before him. I too, do volunteer work in the name of my son through his dog that I've trained to be a therapy service dog. The dog loves it and somehow I feel he knows he is serving his previous master and making him proud, especially when we visit the local Cancer Care Center. I would love to contact the lady/mother of this son but I am not on social media like facebook. I would be honored to take some of his ashes to sea in the Florida Keys where we took half of my sons. I also recommend reading a book by Holly Fox Vellekoop, How to Help Parents GRIEVE.

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onceachild December 22 2013 at 6:59 PM

I know CJ's mom, Hallie (though not well--I did my college internship where she works) and from my first encounter with her she has impressed me. She always has a smile and a kind word for folks and I wish with all my heart she and her family--or anyone really--did not have to endure such a loss! Just a few days ago, Hallie donated a kidney to an unknown recipient. In this and so many other ways, her son's memory lives on!

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bigsistah1 December 22 2013 at 6:59 PM

I have been an emergency room nurse for over 30 years, and have seen many tragic ends to daily interactions that seem uneventful at the time. You did what a million other parents do every day (myself included), and at the devastating end to your story, the one responsible for your son's death is not you. Feel sad, feel lonely, feel anything, but don't feel responsible. You are not.

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Zita Ann December 22 2013 at 10:50 PM

To the Mother of CJ Tomey,

I would be honored to scattered CJ:s ashes on Boot Hill Tombstone , AZ. Many great fighters have been buried there. I like your spirit. I am sure he would too. We have all been touched by suicide. It was my husband. My cousin asked that I scatter her ashes there. She died too early of ALS. He will be in good company. I am not on face book so I am not sure how to sontact you


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estimatorone December 23 2013 at 2:30 AM

I think that this mother should not feel guilty about her son's
suicide. I hope that she seeks some sort of help to get her
through this. Ii is important for her to try to find out why
her son really committed suicide. Her "rolling her eyes back"
during an argument, should not have prompted a suicide.

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Terri December 22 2013 at 9:58 PM

My step son took his own life a little over two years ago. Just cannot wrap our heads around it. Had it been a car accident or natural causes it would not remain quite as difficult. It's sudden, unexpected and there are no answers. No one knows the thoughts and how alone he felt at the end. It's a terrible thing to work through. He made that choice in a moment of desperation, no one was there to stop him. A counselor told my husband after he was beside himself for not being able to save him though he was a state away to ask himself, if he had actually prolonged his life with the support he HAD given him and for being there for him when he needed it. I think yes and I do believe given a second chance he would not do that seeing the pain that's left behind. An irrational desperate moment that cannot be changed w/a life time of consequences for survivors. I am so very sorry you are dealing with this but please understand it was his decision. Please seek grief counselling if you have not already and also check into self help books. He would not want to see you sad, unhappy or tear yourself up over this.

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bejit22 Terri December 23 2013 at 6:51 AM

I'm so sorry for your loss. Young people, especially men, can be so impulsive. They don't realize this is forever. They have a moment and just do whatever it takes to end the pain. I truly believe when I hear about a young man doing this, that they just acted impulsively. It wasn't thought out. You just may not ever know, I hope you can eventually live with it. It is true, he wouldn't want you to be in pain. Young men are impulsive.. this is what they sometimes do, he did not think it thru.

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SadExchange bejit22 December 23 2013 at 8:50 AM

How do you know how long people think and suffer on their situations? I'm sure for many suicides, it's just as likely they thought about it for years and not just seconds.

When I was a teenager, I spent years contemplating suicide and how terrible my situations were. It's equally offensive to hear you say it's a rash decision. Time doesn't always make things better, sometimes it's just a way to come up with more reasons to pull the trigger.

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thesheaffers4 December 22 2013 at 10:06 PM

I would be honored to take some of your son's ashes to where I placed some of my son's ashes in the sea off the Florida Keys. My son passed 1 1/2 years ago from brain cancer. The place was my son's favorite dive spot. She can contact me at the above name @aol.com.

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