Sunday, January 17, 2016

There is Nothing Worse

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.

I know my friends are loving, intelligent, attentive people. I’m sure they didn’t see this coming or they would have done everything possible, pulled out all the stops to make sure that their little girl didn’t stop living at the so-damn-young age of 15. They, like all parents, probably assumed there would be a high school graduation and college and marriage and maybe grandchildren. I would bet that they never, ever thought it could come to this, that their beloved firstborn could be with us for just a decade and a half. Most loved ones who experience this probably didn’t. I know I didn’t – until I learned what happened last Wednesday. Now I’m not so sure, so insulated and cocky and closed to the possibility that this could happen in my family.

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


  1. This is awful. And it happened because of bullying? This bully acts must stop. And it happens everywhere in the world.

    May she rest in peace. And may God guve her parents endless patience and support from their surroundings.

    1. Bullying is not prevent in this high school.

      Source: I go to the same high school. I've never witnessed an instance which could be considered bullying, but then again I don't know everyone here. It's a big high school, and I didn't even know the young girl who passed away.

    2. She was honestly such a warm hearted girl and easy to talk to. Could listen to her tell stories on and on. Yes ELHS has an issue with bullying myself has experienced it, it made me do things I regret now . I hope ELHS realized them not doing anything about bullying can turn into a tragic accident. She will forever hold a legacy at ELHS

  2. Wow. This is a beautiful blog. Thank you for sharing! Sydney will be missed.

  3. It's aweful, Patrick, but your words are beautiful. As a father of a daughter who's now 32, I worry about her for myriad reasons, even though she is doing awesomely. Nevertheless, I still worry about her for myriad reasons.

  4. This is such a horrible thing to have happen to such a beautiful young lady. As a poet myself I can feel her pain, we tend to hide our thoughts and feeling in the form of what others think is rhyming jibberish, or what some feel as to be very beautiful poetry. Her poem is very beautiful but it was also a message bullying,untruths, and being in a better place, she just wanted to be in a peaceful place from here on. Bullying is one of the most horrific situations a child can go through and if it is kept quiet then a person feels that they can only resort to the one thing (in some cases) that they feel will help them to be able to cope and to make it all go away. PERMANENTLY! They have no more pain. My thoughts and I know we are suppose to have a loving forgiving spirit. But someone needs to come to terms that they pushed a beautiful living soul over the edge and it pretty much is like they may as well have been there to help her become the peaceful angel that she is now. Sydney was a beautiful person and if she only could have seen all the love that she received today inspite of the negatives. She will be missed! Sydney I was there and I saw how you had an impact on a lot of people and I did not know you. Rest in peace sweetheart, no more hurt or pain!

  5. These thoughtful and insightful words fueled a family discussion this evening. Our boys were school mates of Sydney E. Zaban, though they also did not know Sydney, they know that she was well-regarded. They know this death is a close and true tragedy.

    Life is a delicate balancing act at times.

    Whether the pains that drove Sydney to end her sweet and poignant life stemmed from bullying, physical pain, the chaos and brutality in our world, existential angst, exquisite sensitivity, or some other agony- we all ought take pause for a moment and perhaps reflect and affirm that most of us could do a little better at demonstrating kindness, or patience, or tolerance, or respect for each other, as brothers and sisters in this world together.
    A kind word or a nod and smile can uplift. A meanness or a disregard can sink a weary spirit.

    None of us can ever truly know the burden another carries. Most of us keep our deepest truest pains to ourselves. And we all carry some form of burden.

    We can only walk in our own shoes.

    Let us be kinder. Let us listen to each other better. Let us hear not only the squeaky wheels and the surrounding discordant soap-boxing and snark, but also the softer whispers of the wisened willow. There are truths and stories in the near quiet that too ought be heard.

    Let us all be our better selves, for our own good, and for the good of each other.

    May Peace be forever and ever with Sydney E. Zaban. May peace mend the hearts of the family and friends of Sydney. May peace prevail upon the Whole World.

    Ann Larsen

  6. I go to the same school she did and I was bullied until this year, which is now my senior year. The only reason It stopped was because the girls switched schools. My mom and I went to the principal and did everything we could. I just gave up and let it continue because the administration didnt do anything.