It started out as a normal Tuesday morning with the usual madness - 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 5 minutes late but a good 10 - and I was starting to get frustrated. I needed to get the littlest to daycare and my work day into full swing - but we were stuck waiting for the bus. Finally - a small white car drove up, spoke quickly to the parents on the corner - and everyone starting moving towards the other end of the street. One of the Dad's 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 that way.
"Suicide" he said, shaking his head and walking away.
Suicide. What a weighted word. At first, I was sad. Then, curious. Where was the body? Where did it happen? I quickly backed out of the driveway and headed off for daycare - taking our normal route. When I got to the park there was yellow tape everywhere, and police cars, and all sorts of people milling about looking sad, frustrated, defeated.
"Can I get through this way?" I asked the officer closest to my car. He directed me around a bend and towards 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, sad for that family - what if he had kids - and wondered - again - what takes a person so low in life that their only solution is to end it?
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 - as I had suspected - but a child. A boy. A brand new gut wrenching grief hit me - a boy - a baby? I was struck dumb and silent - unable to really process what I was hearing. A 14 year old boy who 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 all 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 routine - doing the same things I do every day. Except, when I drove by the park and the crime scene - I couldn't look away. I felt an almost uncontrollable urge to stop. 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 - I saw a women. I had never seen her before, but I KNEW she was the Mom. She was walking down the sidewalk - wrapped in a blanket - 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 - so unable to look away from this experience. I NEEDED to stop and talk to this women. 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. And 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, and 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 myself. It was about humanity, empathy, the connection that runs between all of us - and a sad, confused, heart broken Mom that will forever wonder until the end of her days what she could have done differently. I hope - that for those few moments - I helped her. I hope - in that time - that she was able to talk and say what was on her heart - knowing that 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 Hayden. I looked into his perfect face, his beautiful eyes - and had to turn my head away.
"Do you know what suicide is?" I asked him.
"Yes" he said, 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. That 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."
OMG. My baby, my love - my first born, open hearted, sweet child - captured it all in that moment. Dreams keep us alive - keep us moving forward - and feed our hearts and souls. A life without a dream is not a life worth living.
I didn't know the other boy's story - I had never met him before - but this whole experience made me realize that life is so fragile, so fleeting, and so full of heartache yet, within all that, 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 and his dreams stopped mattering.
Everyday is a gift. Every moment we have with our loved ones is an opportunity to do good - bring joy - 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.