Every year on January 20th, I pause and light a candle of remembrance because one of my classmates took his own life. It’s been 23 years.
We were 17-18 years old. High school seniors. We had dreams and goals and plans. It was unthinkable, yet he did it.
It is on days like today that I truly appreciate social media. I posted my status about remembering him, and several of my old high school friends commented with their own perspectives on his death. Some talked about all that he has missed out on. Others spoke to the tragedy that he couldn’t see himself the way we all saw him.
One friend reminded us how silent the halls were as we moved between classes, each of us in utter shock at the news of his suicide. I had forgotten that part. As I closed my eyes, I could hear the roar of the silence. No loud laughter or horseplay. No talking. Only a few stray whispers and an occasional locker door closing. You could hear people walking–not because any of us was wearing loud shoes, but because there was nothing else to hear.
There are details I will never share publicly about his death, out of respect for his family and for him.
This particular event in my young life forever changed me. Honestly. I never got over the feeling that maybe I could have done something to stop him. Maybe I missed an opportunity to be his friend when he needed one. I try not to ever miss another opportunity to be a listening ear for a friend, and that has been reciprocated countless times. It is because of him that I strive to keep the lines of communication open and honest between me and my husband and our kids.
If you are depressed or feeling lonely, please know that things really do get better. Find someone, anyone to talk to. A teacher, a coworker, a librarian, a parent, a friend. If they don’t have the answers, they may know someone else who does.
I promise, it really does get better.
For today, I will write in my novel from an old, deep wound in hopes that someone, someday will feel less alone when they read it.