It has already been more than a week since former child actor, Sawyer Sweeten, took his own life. Over the weekend, approximately 200 of the 19-year-old’s friends and family gathered to say goodbye to the young man many referred to lovingly as “Bubs.”
His twin brother, Sullivan, with whom he starred on Everybody Loves Raymond, served as one of his pallbearers and one can only imagine how painful it was for him to help load that coffin into the hearse trailer (which was attached to a motorcycle in a nod to Sawyer’s love for Harley-Davidson) when the service was over.
Almost everyone in attendance opted to wear greens and blues over the traditional black to remember the young man’s favorite colors. One family member, his aunt, Ashley Antonissen, told the mourners that Sawyer “really loved cats, like, a lot” to explain why she had chosen to wear a shirt adorned with the image of an adorable feline.
For all intents and purposes, Sawyer sounded like an average teenager but, clearly, he was suffering. Not much has been revealed about the circumstances leading up to his death but we do know that, while visiting family in Texas, he went out onto the front porch and fatally shot himself. His sister (who also co-starred on Everybody Loves Raymond), Madylin Sweeten, wrote on Facebook on Thursday afternoon, “At this time I would like to encourage everyone to reach out to the ones you love. Let them have no doubt of what they mean to you.”
At the funeral, Sawyer’s siblings took turns explaining how much he had meant to them but his mother’s final tribute was heartbreakingly beautiful. Elizabeth Gini, stood before the crowd and wondered how she could “begin to summarize 20 years of loving [her son] with mere words.”
She described the joy of learning that she was pregnant which was only magnified six months later when she learned that she was expecting twins. She explained that her “heart was filled with anticipation and love” but that she had to push aside fears of losing him.” She said that the feeling of having “borrowed time” nagged her as she watched him grow.
Mrs. Gini touched on the early days when she raised her boys alone and then, later, when she remarried and Sawyer welcomed his younger siblings with hands that “colored, read, played and comforted each new baby sister.” She described her son as someone who went out of his way to help others and always left her feeling supported as a mother.
She concluded by saying: “…And tell God, ‘Thank you’ for me. And tell him how grateful, lucky, and privileged I feel that he chose me to be your mom and I hope I made him proud. And I will help guide those who you left behind until we are called up to be with you. I hold you with my whole entire heart, Mom.”
An entire family is mourning this tragic loss which, of course, highlights this important issue once again. According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in this country. Clearly, more needs to be done to raise awareness with a focus on preventing more lives from being lost.
In his memory, Sawyer’s family is planning to honor his love of cats by building an outdoor play area at the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside, California.