My dad, Jon Williams, didn’t have a bad bone in his body. He cherished time spent with family, he felt pride serving his community as a UNC physician, and he was always mindful of the simple things in life for which he felt incredibly grateful. My dad was selfless, wicked-smart, loving, and hilarious, and he could brighten any room with his unbeatable smile and contagious laughter. The peace he felt from listening to music, eating good food, playing cards, and going for “joy rides” in the car always inspired me, for he could find joy in the simplest of things.

Despite his love of this life alongside family and friends, my dad lost his battle with depression in the fall of 2020. He sought help in every way that he could (through therapy, audio meditations, reaching out to close friends, and spending time in the hospital), but he continued to feel shame in his wavering mental health.

When my dad passed away, I was thirteen years old. One of my greatest fears was forgetting the endless memories we have together. In order to ease this fear of forgetting, I began a Notes page on my phone where I have written any and all memories I remember with my dad. While some of these memories are heartbreaking to recall, most make me shake with laughter and indescribable joy. For instance, one entry says, “Waving our hands out of his car’s sunroof while we drove on Highway 54.” Others are silly and random like one that reads, “Mom holding Dad’s waist as he leaned out of an upstairs window and tried to knock down a huge wasp’s nest.” Now, three years after my dad’s death, I am incredibly grateful for my Notes page. What began as a small bank of memories is now a massive source of my relief and comfort, for I have hundreds and hundreds of these entries, all of which I can picture vividly.

I cannot put into words what The Foundation of Hope means to my family and me. The staff, volunteers, and contributors to the Foundation’s cause are tirelessly working to combat the stigma that surrounds mental health struggles and the variety of ways mental health can affect one’s life. Although my dad continued to seek help amidst his battle, I know he felt shame in his depression. My family and I never felt ashamed of him, nor do we now. The Foundation is catalyzing important conversations that shed light on the pervasiveness of mental illness, many of which I wish my dad could hear today.

My dad was (and still is) my greatest role model, and I actively try to embody his actions and values every day. I just know that he would be thrilled to read my Notes page alongside me. We would be struggling to contain our laughter as we remembered the sweet and ridiculously silly memories we have together.

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