2021 | News

In tribute, Raskins say son lived moral, magical life, but felt weight of depression

Tommy Raskin, 25, died on New Year’s Eve

In a long, heartfelt essay on Monday night, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin and Sarah Bloom Raskin wrote that their son, Tommy — who died on New Year’s Eve — was precocious, loving, crusading and much more.

But he also suffered under the weight and pain of depression, which “became overwhelming and unyielding and unbearable.”

In Monday evening’s essay, the Raskins detailed Tommy’s life from birth through college, sharing anecdotes about his love of animals, his family and other people.

Tommy Raskin was 25.

The Raskin family announced his death on Thursday. On Saturday, the family announced it had established a memorial fund in his honor.

The Tommy Raskin Memorial Fund for People and Animals will distribute money semiannually to causes and charities that include Oxfam, Give Directly, the Helen Keller Institute and Animal Outlook.

“He hated cliques and social snobbery, never had a negative word for anyone but tyrants and despots, and opposed all malicious gossip, stopping all such gossipers with a trademark Tommy line — ‘forgive me, but it’s hard to be a human,’ ” the Raskins, who live in Takoma Park, wrote in the essay, which is interspersed with photos of Tommy at different stages in his life.

A graduate of Montgomery Blair High School, Tommy studied history at Amherst College before beginning classes at Harvard Law School.

Tommy loved poetry, reading and writing, and effectively persuaded many to join him in veganism, the Raskins wrote.

He tried and enjoyed many things, including acting, school in Paris, tutoring, debate, politics and teaching.

He hugged strangers on the street, threw a dinner party so his class could spend prom night together and pushed for solutions to social problems, his parents wrote.

“Tommy Raskin had a perfect heart, a perfect soul, a riotously outrageous and relentless sense of humor, and a dazzling radiant mind,” the essay says. “He began to be tortured later in his 20s by a blindingly painful and merciless ‘disease called depression,’ … a kind of relentless torture in the brain for him, and despite very fine doctors and a loving family and friendship network of hundreds who adored him beyond words and whom he adored too, the pain became overwhelming and unyielding and unbearable at last for our dear boy, this young man of surpassing promise to our broken world.

“On the last hellish brutal day of that godawful miserable year of 2020, when hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of people all over the world died alone in bed in the darkness from an invisible killer disease ravaging their bodies and minds, we also lost our dear, dear, beloved son, Hannah and Tabitha’s beloved irreplaceable brother, a radiant light in this broken world.”

Tommy Raskin is survived by his sisters, Hannah and Tabitha, parents Jamie and Sarah Bloom Raskin, grandparents Arlene Bloom and Lynn Raskin and many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

There will be a private funeral on Tuesday and a virtual public memorial service later this month.

Condolences can be sent to Jamie.Raskin@mail.house.gov or by mail to Raskin’s Rockville District Office at 51 Monroe St., Suite 503, Rockville, MD 20850.

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Warning sides of suicide:
• Talking about wanting to die
• Looking for a way to kill oneself
• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
• Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Withdrawing or feeling isolated
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
• Displaying extreme mood swings

If someone exhibits warning signs of suicide:
• Do not leave the person alone
• Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
• Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or Montgomery County 24 Hour Crisis Center at 240-777-4000
• Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from medical or mental health professionals

Source: Reportingonsuicide.org; Montgomery County

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com