Three suicides in the space of eleven hours this time last year, all in my area, practically in my back yard.
I was reeling with a myriad emotions, when I learned about it.
One of the three young people to die was a young woman. She had been her high school Valedictorian two months earlier.
Fast forward a little bit, and on the morning of the appointed day, this bright young woman moves into her dorm at Columbia University.
By then having myself taken two of my children to college, I could well imagine her parents feelings as they said their farewells after helping their only child settle in.
I could easily imagine her parents conversation as they left Manhattan behind, on their way up home up the Hudson.
They may have envisaged a quite evening at home. They must have been bursting with pride, they must have been joyful and excited for their daughter, for all the opportunities and possibilities that lay ahead of her.
As for themselves… they might have been a bit unsettled, a bit sad finding themselves empty nesters, a new chapter in their lives as parents had just started… but she would still be coming home, she wasn’t all that far away, they could jump in the car and be with her at the drop of a hat if needed and vice-versa.
How, in the name of God, could they have ever imagined the dark clouds ahead of them later on in day – a day that had dawned beautifully warm and bright … the next time they saw their daughter again, she would be dead. For in the evening of that very same day, their daughter had made her way to the roof of her new dorm at college and jumped to her death!
I went to their house with my daughter. They were not there and since it was not far, we drove over to the funeral parlor, the same one where my own son had laid in his coffin while family and friends came to say goodbye.
Yes, the funeral director confirmed, they would be organizing the funeral… the wake would be at …
And so I went. I went because wanted them to know that however awful…
Let me pause here for a moment to make something clear: there are no words strong enough to describe what it’s like to lose a child and to suicide in particular, and awful is very lame. But on the understanding that you know that awful does NOT come anywhere near describing the raw bloodiness of it all, I’ll stay with awful.
So… However awful the days and months ahead would be, they could survive. They would be able to laugh again, smile again, enjoy life again.
I knew that hearing this from me, a parent like them who’d been through it not that long before them, would give them hope.
The line was long, but eventually my turn came. I hugged them both, we exchanged a few words… They were too shell-shocked to register much of anything then, but I knew that our meeting would surface in their minds when they travelled back to the early days after their daughter’s death. I also knew that though they didn’t realize it now, there would soon come a time when they would long to be back in that funeral parlor! When, though dead and in a casket, their daughter was with them!
Glancing over to the casket, even though I knew what deadly sorrow would follow, I wanted nothing more than to swap places with them, and have it be Andrew in that casket because… Because at least I could still see him, look at him. I could touch him, stroke his hair, I could close my eyes and rest my head against his as I did when it’d been my turn in that very same funeral parlor. Even then, he was my Andrew, my beloved child, my precious son.
I come back to now… it is raining and the sky is grey.