I knew it was something that had never entered her innocent 9-year-old mind. And I hesitated to tell her. I knew she wouldn’t understand.
I don’t even understand.
But it was a cloud hanging in our air last week.
She overheard Casey and I talking about a funeral on Saturday and asked what had happened.
How did he die? she asked multiple times.
I tried to be aloof and said we weren’t sure….that it might have been a car accident. But when she brought it up again later that day, I thought I should be honest.
And it broke my heart all over again to sit down, and in simple terms try to explain something that is so complex and impossible to comprehend.
Last week a sweet, kind, talented young man in our community took his life.
He was only 16. He was liked and loved by everyone around him. His family loved him. His church family loved him. He was smart and funny and smiled whenever I saw him.
Many of his peers had seen him just hours before the tragedy occurred.
And everyone is left wondering how and why? And what could have happened differently?
I know this is not the typical post you come to read on my blog.
But it has weighed heavily on my mind this week and I can’t stop thinking about it. I get emotional every time I picture that sweet young man, joking around with his friends, having fun. And I hope that writing this down will help ease some pain for anyone feeling sad this week, or aching for the loss of their own friend.
Because this makes me sad on so many levels.
Sad for his sweet family who loved him dearly and are living a horrible reality.
Sad for his 14 year-old brother who will forever remember finding his brother.
Sad for the many close friends he had in our youth group at church and at school, who are confused and heartbroken to lose their friend, and buddy, and swim teammate, and co-worker.
Sad for others who have lived through a similar experience.
Sad for taking away part of Lucy’s innocence, to explain to her that someone can actually shoot himself—that some people feel sad enough in their lives, that they want the pain to end.
And for myself….sad and thankful for the small interactions I had with him while working with our youth group at church. For the past 5 years, I’ve been able to work with the young women (12-18 years old), in our congregation at the Mormon church. Many of them were close friends with this young man. I’ve loved being a part of their lives and watching their talents grow. They’ve taught me so much and I hope I’ve inspired them as well to want to live good lives and be kind to others around them. Serving in the Mormon church is time-consuming. For those of you unfamiliar with our faith, all “callings” within the church are non-paid positions, that rotate around with all individuals in the congregation. Those asked to be a Bishop, leaders, teachers, etc. spend many hours, giving service to people around them. And they do this because they love others and they love God.
But just last weekend I had been complaining to Casey about this very thing…I had told him I was tired of giving so much of my time to church callings, and to kids, and to all the things that I felt were being asked of me, and of him. This conversation had come right when summer was coming to an end and I was worn and spent by our busy lives. I was aching for some time to jump back into my blog and business. I was spread thin.
I think we all feel this way. Every mom. And those of the Mormon faith know the fine details I’m referring to.
And then just as I had spent the week complaining in my own mind, came this sad death in our community.
And I immediately felt selfish.
Selfish for putting something so trivial as my blog above the opportunities we all have to help others. How insignificant it seemed in the larger picture of life.
And I was suddenly thankful for the many hours I had spent with the youth girls, in church lessons, chatting in the car, going to dances, toughing it out at girl’s camp. And for the many hours we and the other women I serve with had spent discussing these girl’s needs and how to help them each individually in their lives—to help them through the tough times they were facing. I was thankful for the teachers in our church and at my kids’ school who teach my children good values. And I was thankful for the people who have touched me in my life. I was saddened by the loss from our community, and also happy that I get to be part of the bigger picture. We all do.
And I thought of all the wonderful people who have been part of this young man’s life. It’s easy and natural to retrace our steps and wonder if we could have said just that one thing differently. We can feel guilty and continue to ask why?
Sometimes there are no answers.
It’s very hard to understand how a young man, who appeared so happy on the outside could make such a horrible decision. The eulogy at his service was beautiful, remembering the many great talents he shared with us all. He was very involved with the swim team at school, and all of his teammates showed up for the memorial service wearing their blue swim shirts, so proud that they knew him. The sea of blue (and some red shirts from the opposing school) just made me cry. What love.
But I also appreciated the honesty of the eulogy. The speaker touched on something that I started researching a bit last night called Impulsive Suicide. Because as a parent and friend, we all hope we can prevent someone who may be feeling the same to snap out of the impulsive moment.
I read a few articles here, here, and here that all came to the same conclusion—that many suicides, when they occur lethally (such as by a gun, rather than by a slower culprit such as a drug overdose that may have a chance to be stopped) are often contemplated and carried out in a short period of time. They are often impulsive. They happen within 5 minutes to an hour of the original thought occurring. Someone hits a sudden low in life (due to unforeseen experiences to those of us on the outside) and the person simply wants the pain to end. Taking their life seems like the only way. A few survivors (cited in this article above) who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge realized immediately that they did not want to die, and immediately regretted their decision. Impulsive acts like these are not always thought-out. But tragically, they are final.
Sorry for the heavy post here my friends.
I’m definitely not a psychologist. Nor can I even imagine what it feels like to be this boy’s parents. I know some of you have gone through this sad experience in your life. And my heart breaks for all of you.
I don’t know what sad event or thing in this young man’s life took him to a low point.
But I love these words his parents wrote at the end of his obituary:
“Please hold him close, as we do, in your mind and spirit, and remember the meaning of this tragedy. Reach out to those in need of a friend, and let us honor the qualities and gifts that make each of us unique. Tell someone how much they mean to you even if you think they already know.”
If you feel sorrow or loss in your own life, there are many beautiful messages here.
If you feel inspired to call or text a friend out of the blue, do it. They will only thank you.
If you’ve ever felt low in your own life, please remember that there are hundreds of family members and friends who love you, and are cheering for your successes.
Many hugs and prayers for this sweet family.
And thanks for letting me share with you in this open space. I promise the next post will be full of fabric and happier times.