Sunflowers for Bausten

A 12-foot, eight-inch sunflower is growing in Teri Coplin’s Edmond front yard. For her family, it’s a symbol of hope. After losing her nephew, Bausten Jech, to suicide in 2019, the family began an annual sunflower-growing competition in his honor.

“Sunflowers were Bausten’s favorite flower,” Teri explained. “At his funeral, we passed out packets of sunflower seeds with information about Bausten on them, and the family started asking each other how tall their flowers had grown.”

It quite literally grew from there. Every year since, they’ve planted, watched, and measured, and crowned a gardening champion. So far, Teri’s father is the undefeated champion, with flowers reaching up to 11 feet. But this year, Teri and her tower of a sunflower have their eyes on the prize—a free pack of beer.

It’s impressive, but it’s not really about the flowers. “This is a way for us to keep Bausten’s memory alive,” Teri said. “It’s fun and lighthearted, and reminds us of him.” All accounts of Bausten highlight his kindness, honesty, and willingness to help those he loved.

“My life was forever changed on February 18, 2019. I lost my 25-year-old son to suicide,” Bausten’s mom, Tracey Jech-Owen said. “There isn’t a minute that goes by that I don’t think of him. Losing a child is the greatest loss in life and when that child takes their own life the pain feels insurmountable.”

While we recognize National Suicide Prevention Week in September, Tracey’s advice is imperative year-round. “If you or someone you know is thinking of harming themselves, call or text 988.” Oklahoma’s 988 Mental Health Lifeline is a private and anonymous way to seek immediate help from mental health professionals.

Tracey’s wish is for her son’s life to be remembered. “I want my son to be remembered for his kindness, his genuine love for people of all colors, from all over the world. I don’t want my son’s life to be defined by his suicide. His life mattered.”

Tracey says she will love Bausten forever, miss him until the day she dies, and think of him every time she sees a sunflower.

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