MOUNT PLEASANT MILLS - At 3 a.m. Saturday, exactly one year after 14-year-old Midd-West student Brandon Bitner took his life, his mother will place a vase at the memorial site next to the highway where he died and light the candle inside it.
That one act will set off a day of events to remember the boy -- who began a communitywide conversation on bullying -- including a 4 p.m. celebration of life service at his graveside, followed by a candle lighting near his place of death at Routes 104 and 11-15, where a 3-foot cross has been erected.
A picnic at his family's home, 5003 Route 104 in Mount Pleasant Mills, will be held from 1 to 3:30 p.m.
"Brandon loved picnics," said his mom, Tammy Simpson.
"It will be a hard day," she said, adding that lots of family and friends will be there to lend support. "He is truly missed."
Brandon Bitner, who friends and family describe as quiet, nice to everyone and an accomplished violin player, took his life Nov. 5, 2010, leaving behind a suicide note that said he had been victimized by bullies for five years.
Simpson has no advice to share with other parents about how to tell if their children are considering suicide.
"Brandon didn't have any signs," Simpson said. "That's the most upsetting thing."
He didn't change anything about himself, she said. His grades didn't drop, his friends didn't change, he didn't isolate himself.
The night before he died, he and Simpson had a normal evening together, sitting at home and laughing, and giving the normal hug before bed, and a "See you in the morning."
The tragic event, however, came with a message straight from Bitner. And that's the message Simpson and a number of Bitner's family and friends are dedicated to spreading.