Seminole Woman’s Son Wanted to Travel, So 1,000 People Spread His Ashes

Editor’s note: This story includes discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, resources are available to help. Please see the information at the end of this story.

SEMINOLE – Much of April 14, 2010 remains a blur for Hallie Twomey.

But she can’t forget her reaction to her son Christopher John Twomey’s admission that he felt like a failure.

“I didn’t tell you that I love you. I didn’t hug him. I didn’t say anything,” she said. “I just rolled my eyes. I thought he was just a dramatic 20-year-old.”

Shortly thereafter, her son died by suicide outside their home in Auburn, Maine.

Today, Hallie Twomey, a Seminole resident of five years, still talks to the urn that holds her son’s ashes.

She apologizes for not saying more that day and reminds her son, better known as CJ, that she loves him.

More than 1,000 others have also shared that message as they spread his grace around the world, as part of Hallie Twomey’s mission to help her son fulfill his afterlife travel goals.

Their story is featured in the documentary Scattering CJ by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Andrea Kalin.

It will air on PBS World Channel on Friday, Saturday and Wednesday. .

“I can’t bring him back, but I can honor him and his legacy and influence others through this film,” said Hallie Twomey.

Scattering CJ director Andrea Kalin (left) and Hallie Twomey [ Courtesy of Spark Media ]

The documentary features the Twomeys’ story and selfie videos from some of the more than 1,000 people — mostly strangers — who agreed to help spread CJ’s ashes.

His ashes have been scattered in more than 100 countries and 750 locations, including Mount Kilimanjaro, the Great Wall of China, Honduras, the southern coast of Fiji, underwater on the Great Barrier Reef and into outer space via a private rocket.

Hallie Twomey sends the ashes in small bags to volunteer participants, along with two requests: to send her a photo or video so she can experience the journey with her son, and to remember her as they distribute the ashes. love and pity.

Everyone has complied with the requirements. Some share personal stories of losing a loved one to suicide or admit that they once thought about it.

Others say learning about Hallie Twomey’s pain convinced them to keep living.

“To claim that you will never be affected by mental illness, directly or indirectly, in your lifetime is like saying that you will never catch a cold or cut your finger,” David Lobatto, the film’s producer, said in a statement. prepared. “It is through the extraordinary efforts of people like Hallie Twomey and the skills of activists like Andrea Kalin that the shame can be lifted from this topic and the tools to get help to people in need can be used more widely and more effectively.”

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After high school, CJ Twomey joined the U.S. Air Force and later “competed for a position with the special forces,” Hallie Twomey said. “He was not elected. He was certainly disappointed.”

He was honorably discharged, returned to Maine and worked for a private security company.

“There were no flags,” Hallie Twomey said. “He was starting to think about going back to the army. Things seemed to be moving in a positive direction.”

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Then came April 14, 2010.

CJ Twomey called his mother at work to say his plan to rejoin the military had changed. Hallie Twomey and her husband, John Twomey, returned home to check on their son.

“We ended up in the kitchen talking quietly,” Hallie Twomey said. “But it quickly escalated. He wasn’t crying, but kept saying there was nothing. He was so upset that he slammed his fist on our kitchen counter. He hit him so hard that he appeared.”

He ran outside and killed himself.

“The next year was a nightmare,” Hallie Twomey said. “I remember throwing the dust on my son’s urn and realizing that this is part of my reality now. I clean my son’s urn. This could not be the end for him. He loved life. He loved adventure. It didn’t seem like it could be this. If CJ had lived the life he was meant to live, he would have traveled.”

John, CJ, Connor and Hallie Twomey
John, CJ, Connor and Hallie Twomey [ Courtesy of the Twomey family ]

Three years after her son’s death, Hallie Twomey came up with the idea of ​​asking friends and family to help spread his ashes when they travel. She posted the request on Facebook. It went viral.

“Our local paper did a story and then CNN picked it up,” she said. “It just went from five to 10 to 100 offers overnight.”

“We were getting tons of emails,” Hallie Twomey said. “It was overwhelming to keep up with all these wonderful people and offers to help.”

One such email came from Kalin’s Washington, DC-based production company, Spark Media.

“She promised that if we believe her, she will tell our son’s story and journey in a respectful way that people will want to watch and that will have a positive impact,” Hallie Twomey said. “I believed her and she was right.”

People still reach out to help spread CJ Twomey’s grace, but she’s careful not to send too many.

“I’ll always want to keep some,” Hallie Twomey said. “CJ is gone. But I have an urn and I have my memories.”

If you want to watch

“Scattering CJ” is airing on PBS World Channel.

Show dates: September 16 at 7 p.m., September 17 at 12 p.m., 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., and September 21 at 5 and 11 p.m.

For more information on the film and on volunteering to spread CJ’s grace, visit scatteringcjfilm.com.

I need help?

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; contact the crisis text line by texting TALK to 741741 or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Tampa Bay Crisis Center can be reached by calling 211 or visiting crisiscenter.com.

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