It’s difficult to write this. The girl who spurred this post is gone and unable to approve. Her parents, my friends, are not public people and this is certainly a private and unsettling time. And as the parent of four daughters, I can’t stop crying.
I didn’t know my friends’ daughter, really. I remember when her mom was pregnant with her back in 2000 but I don’t remember if I even met her. I might have. And because everything must change, her parents and I drifted apart. They got divorced. The mutual friends who introduced us got divorced and stopped hosting awesome parties. Our relationship was relegated to Facebook posts. But I always liked them and hoped they and theirs were happy and healthy. (They have – had – two daughters.)
One of them was not happy at all.
The daughter to whom I’m referring died last Wednesday by her own hand. She was found by her mother. Those are all the details that I’ll share here. But I feel a need to write about her, about this. I feel obligated to. So here goes:
She came into the world on December 12, 2000. She attended a magnet school through eighth grade and transferred to a local high school (which, I’ve heard, has a problem with bullying although I don’t know if bullying was a factor in this case). She was a YMCA counselor, was known for her artistic talent and was in charge of a natural playscape project at the local nature center where she volunteered extensively – the same nature center, it turns out, where my own 16-year-old volunteers. She attended her first winter formal at her high school just last month.
And now she’s gone. I don’t know why. And I can’t even write more than a single paragraph about her.
I remember being depressed as a kid. (I rely on antidepressants to this day.) I was small and slight and lacked athletic ability. I didn’t have many friends and knew how it felt to be bullied. I didn’t do well in school, had braces and pimples and wasn’t receptive to my loving parents’ efforts to help me navigate the rough waters of youth. But I made it through. I can remember wanting to run away and start over and even to hurt my tormenters but I can’t remember thinking about ending my own life. I can’t remember being in such unrelenting pain. I don’t know why some kids see this as their only way out, the solution to their problems. It’s so….permanent.
Maybe that’s my friends’ daughter’s legacy. I know I’m going to think twice about how firm and impatient I am with my kids, including – and perhaps especially – the one who raises my blood pressure and gives me sleepless nights. In the whole scheme of things, my friends’ daughter made me realize, it’s not important if my kids sneak food upstairs or argue with each other or leave their backpacks on the floor of the foyer or neglect to say “please” or fail to put their dishes in the sink when they’re finished. Maybe their happiness is what matters, their mood, their frame of mind, whether they feel loved or alone, confident or confused. Maybe I need to think more about what’s important to them, how they’re feeling, what they’re experiencing when they’re not under my roof.
No, not maybe. Definitely.
I’m sorrier than I can express for what happened. I know my friends are in more pain than I can imagine (and I’m a pretty imaginative guy) and it’s actually frustrating that I don’t know what to do for them. I do know this happens all over, every day, and now I have a slightly better understanding of how terrible that is. I just didn’t expect it to happen to any of my friends, and to such a beautiful girl who had so much potential and so much to offer and her whole life in front of her. The words “staggeringly awful” and “devastatingly unfair” were invented for just this occurrence.
Thanks for the lesson, SEZ. I wish you peace. I’ll keep an eye on your parents – and my kids.
We play with sticks treating them as swords
And we train with them when we are bored
We listen to the soft cool breeze
There is no going back so the world is ignored.
I feel the bark on one of the trees
And sigh because I'm now at ease
The place that I will forever protect
I cherish all the amazing memories.
When I sing, I care not if the words are correct
For this is where the lines connect
A happy place where I'm free to fly
And bullies haven't any effect.
A place where no one tells a lie
A place just for she and I
A place where peace will come and stay
A place where my soul will never die.
~ By Sydney E. Zaban ~
Dedicated to The Whole World