LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — It didn't get much news coverage. It didn't get much attention beyond a small neighborhood. But this month last year, a Lawrenceville family suffered a tragic loss.
Ever since, they've found a way to grieve together.
And on a extended January weekend one year later, they gathered again.
Dad Cary Hannon fired up the grill. His wife Sherri threw wood on a fire. Their three kids prepared to meet them at their Gwinnett County home.
It's all for Luke.
“Outdoors was his element," father Cary explained. “He was always trying to get outside."
Luke's parents keep photos within reach: photos of a boy, then a young man, smiling and living.
“We’ve always done things as a family," Sherri told 11Alive's Matt Pearl. "We’ve never just done our own thing."
And the pictures? They "remind us of the happiest, happiest times with him … because he wasn’t always sad. It was just one year."
It started with anxiety: a panic attack at work two Januarys ago. It eventually led to depression, hospitalization, and an episode of mania.
“When somebody’s manic, whatever thought or idea you have, it’s to the nth degree," Cary described. "It’s like pouring gasoline on it and lighting it on fire.”
Luke yelled. He threatened. He moved out. Then came back.
In photos, Luke smiled. In many, many moments, Sherri and Cary feared the worst.
One day last January, Sherri said, her husband called her, "and he said, ‘Have you heard from Luke?’ I said, ‘No.’ And he said, ‘I’m gonna go home.’ … And he got home, and there was a note on the table.”
Today, at a tucked-away spot in a park close to home, a gold marker sits where Luke Hannon took his life. He was 25.
“The hard things to remember are really, really hard," Sherri said. "But they’re part of his journey, so we have to remember.”
In July, Luke’s family went rafting in the Grand Canyon, and spread his ashes in the river. They keep chimes outside with his initials. And this January, one year later, Luke's adopted brother, Will Jessup, decided to ride his bike in Luke's honor from Jacksonville, Florida to Lawrenceville, Georgia: 400 miles in four days.
“We put up the GoFundMe," Will recalled. "I really thought we’d raise a couple hundred dollars. And gosh, when I looked at it this afternoon, I think we were approaching nearly $10,000.”
That was a week ago. Now it’s $19,000, all going to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
"We couldn’t be prouder of our kids and how they’ve carried themselves this year," Sherri said.
“You can have memories of him and not be sad all the time," added Cary. "The alternative is to forget about him, and I don’t want to forget about him.”
The weekend brought a celebration. Will arrived to a crowd of family and friends by the Hannons' house. They ate brisket, played Luke's favorite games, and remembered the man they so suddenly lost.
"No doubt, yeah," Will said. "He's always with us."
Luke's family wanted to make his story public because, too often, these subjects carry a stigma that causes people to keep concerns private. There are many resources relating to mental health, depression, and suicide awareness, including:
In addition, NAMI and MHA have local branches with contacts across the state.