Raskin family lays son to rest amid outpouring of support from Congress

Virtual memorial planned for later in January, after Tuesday’s private funeral service

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., center, held a private funeral ceremony for his son Tommy on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., center, held a private funeral ceremony for his son Tommy on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 5, 2021 at 4:29pm

Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin and his wife, Sarah Bloom Raskin, remembered their 25-year-old son Tommy in a private funeral ceremony Tuesday, a day after releasing a heartrending public tribute.

“Tommy Raskin had a perfect heart, a perfect soul, a riotously outrageous and relentless sense of humor, and a dazzling radiant mind,” the Raskins wrote in the statement, describing his struggle with depression as a “relentless torture in the brain.”

“The pain became overwhelming and unyielding and unbearable at last for our dear boy, this young man of surpassing promise to our broken world,” the Raskins wrote.

The Raskins, well known not only on Capitol Hill and in the congressman’s Montgomery County-based congressional district but across official Washington, have seen an outpouring of support since their son’s Dec. 31 death, in which he took his own life. Sarah Bloom Raskin is a former deputy Treasury secretary and Federal Reserve governor.

Tommy Raskin graduated from Amherst College in western Massachusetts and was a second-year student at Harvard Law School, where according to the family his professors have included Bruce Mann, the husband of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Some in Congress remembered him as an advocate who made a mark on Capitol Hill in his own right, apart from his identity as a lawmaker’s son.

“He was a brilliant, kind and passionate peace advocate, who worked closely with my office to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen,” tweeted Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat.

Other lawmakers seized the moment to call for awareness of mental health challenges during the pandemic.  

“Too many young people have felt anxiety and depression more sharply over the past months,” tweeted Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat.

“Depression is not a symptom of the weak-willed, but an illness just like any other. It doesn’t make you less than, it makes you human,” wrote Democratic Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada.

In the past, personal grief has prompted legislative action on Capitol Hill. When former Sen. Gordon H. Smith, R-Ore., lost his son Garrett Lee Smith in 2003, he led enactment of landmark legislation that established the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Suicide Prevention Program, providing grants to state and tribal governments for youth suicide prevention and early intervention efforts across the country.

“I didn’t volunteer to be a champion of this issue, but it arose out of the personal experience of being a parent who lost a child to mental illness and suicide,” Smith said in 2004, in one of the most emotional Senate floor speeches in memory.

More recently, Congress came together to make the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline more easily accessible to those in need. That measure, which President Donald Trump signed into law in October, will set up 9-8-8 as a three-digit number to access support resources. A Federal Communications Commission order requires service providers to get the auto-directing of calls up and running no later than July 2022.

The Raskins wrote in their Monday post that their son left behind a note, asking them to "look after each other, the animals, and the global poor."

In their son’s honor, the Raskin family set up the Tommy Raskin Memorial Fund for People and Animals with the Greater Washington Community Foundation. A public memorial is expected to take place virtually later in January.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or reach them through the live chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.