It started out as a normal Tuesday morning with the usual madness of getting kiddos dressed, fed and out the door to buses, schools and daycare. Everything moved along according to plan except the bus. It was late, and not five minutes late but a good ten. I was getting frustrated. I needed to get the youngest to daycare and my workday into full swing, but we were stuck waiting for the bus. Finally, a small white car drove up. Someone spoke quickly to the parents on the corner, and everyone starting moving toward the other end of the street. One of the dads came up to me and said there was a crime scene at the park just a block or so away from our house, and the buses couldn’t get through.
“Suicide” he said, shaking his head and walking away.
Suicide. What a weighted word. I was sad and a bit curious. Where was the body? When did it happen? I quickly backed out of the driveway and headed off for daycare, taking our normal route. When I drove past the park, there was yellow tape, police cars and people milling about looking sad, frustrated and defeated.
“Can I get through this way?” I asked the officer closest to my car. He directed me around a bend and toward another exit from our little neighborhood. While I was driving, I turned to look at the park, and in that moment I saw them moving the body, most certainly that of a grown man, based on the size of his shoulders in the bright blue T-shirt. I shook my head, feeling sad for his family, and I wondered what brings a person so low that their only solution is to end their life.
My heart was heavy for the rest of the day. As time went on, more and more information was released. Suddenly, it wasn’t a man but a child, a boy. A brand new gut-wrenching grief hit me. I was struck dumb and silent, unable to really process what I was hearing. A 14-year-old boy thought the only answer to his pain was death. My heart hurt and my head was spinning, but I knew in the bigger scheme of things that this was not my concern. It wasn’t my child. It wasn’t my family. That wasn’t my baby.
But I was wrong. All day and night I kept coming back to that scene where I watched the paramedics move the dead, lifeless body, and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t escape that moment. The next day, it was back to normal, and I headed about my normal routine. Except when I drove by the park and the crime scene, I couldn’t look away. I felt an almost uncontrollable urge to stop and see what this young man had seen just moments before he ended his life. But I drove on, as there were schedules to keep, appointments to attend and work to fill my day.
Coming back that day, I saw a woman. I had never seen her before, but I knew she was The Mom. She was walking down the sidewalk, wrapped in a blanket and looking completely lost, with tears streaming down her face. I had to stop. I knew in that moment this was why I had felt so connected and so unable to look away from this experience. I needed to stop and talk to this woman. I needed, above all else, to hug her and dry her tears and maybe, for a moment, let her know that I felt her pain, her sorrow, her tragedy.
I pulled my car over and got out. She stood on the sidewalk looking confused, broken and utterly exhausted.
“Are you okay? Can I help you?” I asked, and she looked at me and wearily smiled.
“Can I give you a hug?” I asked, and I know it sounds so weird, but at that moment it felt so right.
I hugged her, and she cried and cried, and then we stood and talked. She told me about her son and the night he disappeared, and how they had searched and searched the neighborhood looking for him but just couldn’t find him. She told me how she still had to go home and get her other kids ready for school while he was missing. Then she got quiet and looked away and said, “They wouldn’t let me see his body. They found him, but they wouldn’t let me see him. How could he have been there that whole time and we missed him?”
The pain in her voice cut through me. I cried with her, and we stood there a bit longer and I just listened while she talked, alternating between happy memories, sad times and the unending grief of wondering what she missed or did wrong that would drive her beautiful child to this. After about 40 minutes, I drove her home. She invited me in to meet her family, but I knew it was time for me to go.
I’m not a particularly religious person, and I don’t necessarily believe in a God that directs and sees all, but in that moment I knew this was part of something bigger than me. It was about humanity, empathy, the connection that runs between all of us and a sad, confused, heartbroken mom. She will forever wonder until the end of her days what she could have done differently.
I hope, for those few moments, I helped her.
I hope, in that time, she was able to talk and say what was in her heart, knowing I was there to listen and hear her—not just her words, but her thoughts, fears, regrets and loss, the hard part of life that rips you apart and tears at your soul.
That evening, when I got home, I sat down with my son. I looked at his perfect face, into his beautiful eyes, and I had to turn my head away.
“Do you know what suicide is?” I asked him.
“Yes” he said, his eyes downcast. “It’s when you kill yourself.”
I turned then and looked at him—only 10 years old and full of life—and told him all the reasons why suicide is never the answer. I made him promise me many times over that if he ever was in a place where he felt that was the only solution, he would come to me. We would do our best to make it better.
In that moment, he looked at me and said as clear as crystal and so full of heart, “Mom, I would never kill myself. I have dreams.”
Oh my God. My baby, my love, my firstborn, openhearted, sweet child captured it all in that moment. Dreams keep us alive, keep us moving forward and feed our hearts and souls.
I didn’t know the other boy’s story—I had never met him—but this whole experience made me realize that life is so fragile, so fleeting and so full of heartache. Yet, despite all of that, it is filled with promise and possibility. I’m confident that boy had dreams, and I am so very saddened to think that something or someone crushed him so deeply that his life no longer held promise for him.
Every day is a gift. Every moment we have with our loved ones is an opportunity to do good, bring joy and share love and happiness. With the collective sorrow of suicide hanging heavy over my neighborhood, our schools and our children, I can only hope that something positive can come out of this terrible moment.