HOLLAND, Mich. — A candle shop in Holland has created a new candle and it's one they call "the closest to their heart."
It's dedicated to a young woman who lost her life to suicide, and whose mother has now made it her mission to continue her beloved daughter's legacy through kindness.
Julia Suhajda, or as everyone called her, Gia, had a smile that you couldn't miss.
"She was a fun kid to raise," said Gia's mother, Janice Suhajda. "She was a great teenager, she was pretty sassy and passionate about stuff, but she was really funny, and smart, and beautiful, and well-liked."
Gia grew up in Rochester Hills, and then went to the University of Michigan, where she majored in communications and sociology, and had a minor in law, justice and social responsibility.
During her senior year at the University of Michigan, Gia was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
"She was going to a counselor and taking medications," said Janice. "She was trying hard to work on her mental health."
Unfortunately, on St. Patrick's Day of 2019, Gia made the decision to take her life. She was 21 years old and only six weeks away from graduation.
"I, actually, myself had a little bit of a false sense of security," Janice explained. "I knew she was struggling, but I really never thought that it would come to suicide."
"We did the best we could to show her love and support," she added, "but depression is a medical condition, and it can happen to anyone."
Now, the people who loved Gia the most, are dedicated to remembering who she was.
"Empathy and kindness was something she was really good at," Janice said. "Kind of watching out for people and checking in on them, and honestly, as time has evolved, I've realized that she was probably giving to other people what she needed, and what she wished that she had."
Janice thought of another way to spread Gia's memory, so she paired up with Garnsett Beacon Candle Company out of Holland to create a candle in Gia's memory. It's called 'You Matter To Me.'
"As a mom, I've wanted her legacy to be about her kindness, and not about how she died," Janice said, "but at the same time, there's a need to make sense of and make something positive out of something that's so horrifyingly sad. And that was where we got the idea for the 'You Matter To Me' candle."
"It's just such an important thing," said Chad Garsnett, co-owner and candle creator for Garsnett Beacon, with tears in his eyes.
Janice and Chad brainstormed to create something special that represented Gia's love for traveling, Ireland (where she had studied abroad), and for St. Patrick's Day. They settled on what they call "Irish Rain."
"We finally settled on something that was really nice and fresh," Garsnett explained, "it makes you think of a nice spring day or fresh rain with a touch of clover, and it really makes you think think happy thoughts."
"Scent is an amazing thing that can take you to a place of pure bliss or happiness, and we hope that what we've created with Janice in this candle really just kind of enlightens someone's life," he added, "and that any time they may smell that scent throughout their life, they'll come back to this this memory that 'you matter to me.'"
A portion of the sale of each 'You Matter To Me' candle will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to support research, advocacy and outreach.
"I have said that I think every single person that knew my daughter wished they could have told her one more time how much she mattered to them," Janice said. "So, I hope people see it as a way to give something tangible to someone that says you know, you are really important and I really need you to know that I am there with you and supporting you."
"And if it saves one life," she added, "then it's been a good thing."
You can learn more about Gia and her legacy by going to the website created in her honor, bekindlikegia.com.
If you'd like to purchase a 'You Matter To Me' candle, you can buy online at garsnettbeacon.com or in-person at their store located at 210 S. River Ave, Holland, MI 49423.
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