‘May you find some comfort here’

One of the most unpleasant memories of my, short, 21 years of life is of myself at 17 staring into a coffin at my friend Jeff. My recently-deceased-due-to-a-self-inflicted-gun-shot-wound-to-the-head-with-his-father’s-gun friend Jeff.

No one told us, but I could guess where he put the gun – his lips looked funny, and he always had very nice lips.

Suicide changes everything when you are that age. Maybe it changes everything at any age … but I wouldn’t know that. All I know is what I saw and what I felt.

There were five of us from my high school that knew him. We found out by phone the night it happened that he was dead, but, in a fantastic tribute to our generation, he sent “The Note” via e-mail. When we saw each other the next morning in school we lost it.

None of my friends had ever seen me cry before, nor have most of them since. It hits you like nothing else can.

It isn’t like your dog getting put to sleep or a grandparent slowly succumbing to cancer. You don’t see this one coming.

Everyone deals with suicide differently. Some of my friends embraced the event for what it was and coped by letting anyone in ear-shot know how they felt.

We were a little concerned that others might try for a repeat performance, unable to deal with the reality of a person you care about just being … gone. Some of us locked the feelings that surfaced in a little box to carry around inside us.

Mostly you move on. But one day, stuck in traffic on Rt. 22, his favorite song starts playing on the radio and you can’t help but replay those times.

Why couldn’t you see it coming. Why couldn’t you stop it? Why didn’t he realize that it was over for him in a second but the rest of us get to be jaded for, with any luck, 70 more years?

I don’t know how we can prevent teenage suicide. I think the adults of this world have less of a clue about it than I do.

They think we have it easy but we push ourselves and each other and get pushed by them harder than most people care to acknowledge sometimes.

The good thing is, we all know that this occurs. However you are feeling, everyone around you is feeling, has felt or will feel exactly the same way.

I love it when people say that committing suicide is the coward’s way out. For days after it happened I sat imagining his father’s gun in my hand – could I pull the trigger? What went through his head right before he pulled it? How difficult must it be to consciously decide to give up everything that we take for granted when we wake up in the morning?

I used to fall asleep and wake up convinced I heard him calling my name. It was not a pleasant few months. Even now, four years later, no matter how many times I roll it around my brain, the whole situation still confuses me.

I suppose if you have never been in that frame of mind it isn’t a place you can consciously choose to go … maybe that is why those of us left behind have such a hard time accepting it when loved ones feel there is no choice left except to end their lives.

Perhaps it sounds selfish, but it is the best thing I can think to say to anyone who is harboring suicidal thoughts. Please, think about what you are leaving behind – who you are leaving behind.

I feel like I should be making a point with this. Some grand message to help save all the lost adolescents in the world looking for any shadow of an excuse to save them from the hell they precieve themselves living in.

I don’t think I have one.

To be honest … I am bitter. I am bitter and angry that at 17 I had to deal with this, am dealing with it still and that we live in a world where at 16, Jeff felt he had nothing left to live for.

I have never really talked about this before. I have only written of it once. If you take anything from what I might have said in these three columns let it be this:

Your high school and college years will, at some point, inevitably feel like hell. There is no denying that and no escaping it.

Forget all the things your counselors and teachers taught you about watching for suicide and simply be conscious of each other.

We are stuck in a generation gap that demands we look out for our own.

Don’t let your friends end up like Jeff and don’t condemn your own conscience to the bitterness and confusion I may carry with me for the rest of my life.