A boy from our community took his own life.
He was a teenager, still in high school, with his entire life about to open up for him, and he chose to make it stop.
I’ve never had a conversation with this boy (not from a lack of trying) but I feel as if I knew him.
See, we lived in the same neighborhood, our tiny little mismatched subdivision of cabins and fancy homes. 3 roads in one direction, two in the other; a square with a line through the center, each side about a quarter of a mile long.
I had a deck. This boy had a bike. I sat on my deck and watched this boy ride laps around the neighborhood, around and around, again and again, often for hours. It was so constant that he became part of the backdrop of my world.
I had the neighbor who growls at his dog in his weird aggressive way. And, the Atmos guy who comes home on time for dinner with his family each evening – his truck signaling to me that it was time for my evening meal.
The hundreds of little unidentified birds that crowd the powerlines to watch the sunset. The woman who walks with her umbrella and phone, loudly sharing her conversation with anyone wanting to eavesdrop.
When you camp out on the deck like I did for so many years, you get to know the neighbors by observation. And if you observe closely, you learn a lot.
This boy had something sad about him. Something dark. His monotonous peddling made it obvious that he was trying to work something out in that head and heart of his. I’ve done that; the miles that I have walked in attempts to find some peace would take me all the way back to New Jersey.
I often wondered if I could be friends with him, at least connect with him, break through the shell. I like teenagers, especially the brooding ones. I wasn’t necessarily a brooder, but dark thoughts accompanied me everywhere when I was his age.
I said hi to him whenever I saw him at the mailboxes. He grunted in response, never looking me in the eye. I was determined to get a smile from him.
My friends with whom I shared deck dates knew him, had watched him, wondered about him. My dear friend R and I regularly speculated what the boy’s life must be like – never knowing if we even came close.
My sense was that this boy was loved. That someone’s heart has broken, irreparably, over his senseless death.
I want to call R, to tell him the sad news, but R too is gone. He died last year. The fact that I can’t tell him makes this death that much more poignant.
I had so hoped for some relief for this child. I thought that one of these days I would see him smile, maybe even get a “hello” out of him.
I was unaware of the boy’s name until yesterday when I called my son to ask if I knew him. My son said, “Not to sound insensitive, but it’s not that much of a surprise.” Then he added, “He’s the kid who rode around your neighborhood.”
And as much as I hated to admit it, he was right. This child was lost.
There was a time in our home when one of my children was so angry, so miserable, so unhappy, that I worried about him attempting to end it all. I constantly reminded him that suicide is not an option, that there is always, always, a way out – a way short of death.
I prayed that he heard me.
My child turned to drinking and drugs which led to near death, but he is still alive, the self-destruction seems to be a thing of the past. Most of all, he’s happy.
I am so eternally grateful that I can still wrap my arms around him, get into arguments with him, I can still worry about him like any mom wants to do.
My soul aches for this neighbor boy, for his family, for our community. A child should never feel that there is no other way out than to take his own life.
How could we have possibly let this one slip through the cracks?