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Mayor Megan Barry: Thank you, Nashville

At around 3 a.m. Sunday, July 30, my husband, Bruce, and I awoke to a knock on the door. We proceeded to receive the most devastating news a parent could ever hear — that our beloved son, Max, had left this world before us.

In those next few moments, we were crushed by a weight of sadness and grief — of pain and disbelief.

But within hours, we were surrounded by close friends who came to us in our time of need to shoulder this great pain and burden. Shortly thereafter, we released the news publicly that Max had suffered from an overdose and died because we knew that as a public family, our private pain would not stay private for long.

What happened next was a tremendous outpouring of love and affection from all over Nashville and across the country. Close friends and perfect strangers sent their thoughts and prayers, offers of assistance, and deeply personal stories of their own similar pain, and how they were able to push forward.

As Bruce said at Max’s memorial, “This crushing weight of sadness and loss has an incredible emotional counterweight called community … this warm embrace from an incredible family, and an incredible community, and an astounding city. This warm embrace fills that hole (in our hearts) in a lot of ways, and to a significant extent.”

In my office hangs a sign. It reads: “Power is about waking up every day and making a difference in someone else’s life.”

Over the last week, the Nashville community has shown itself to be tremendously powerful, because you have all made a difference in our lives as we mourn the loss of our son.

Now, it is time for me to return to a new normal.

Over the last two years, I’ve talked with many mothers who have lost children — most often to gun violence. I knew enough to know that I couldn’t really understand how painful that must be.

Now, I know. Now, I understand.

With that knowledge, I must move forward for all of the people in Nashville who are not as fortunate as myself or my family to have an entire city come together and lift them up in their most tragic and painful moment.

They are families who have lost a loved one to drugs, or victims of crime or gun violence, or simply people who are wanting for the opportunities and pathways to success that children like my son, Max, had available to them.

I don’t yet know what that looks like, but I know that I must use the time I have left in office to return to the community the love, kindness and compassion that we have received in our time of need. Nashville, you’ve pulled us up in our lowest moments.

You’ve blanketed us with love and kindness. I want to do everything in my power — and with my power — to do the same for you.

While the following two words are not enough to truly express my gratitude for your outpouring of support, as I have learned over the last week, sometimes there are no other words.

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