In America alone, someone dies by suicide every thirteen minutes.
Every thirteen minutes.
I originally posted this piece on SisterwivesSpeak.com in September. In this post, I mention a suicide that occurred my Senior year of high school. Today, the daughter of that friend is raising money for suicide prevention by selling t-shirts. If mental illness or suicide has touched your life, I urge you to help her out. Her goal is to sell one hundred shirts. She walks to remember a father she never got to know. I knew him, and he was a great guy. Thank you for your support. Click here to buy a t-shirt or leave a small donation. (FYI: After purchasing a shirt, I learned that you have to pick them up onsite.)
“Everything happens for a reason.” Bullshit.
“It was all part of the plan. His plan. God’s plan.” Bullshit.
I know. It’s what people say. They want to help, to make you feel better, to make it easier, to try to justify…injustice.
“Only the good die young.” Truth.
“Gone too soon.” Truth.
“Life is short.” Absolutely.
I lost my first friend when I was in the sixth grade. He and his brother thought it would be a great idea to play with his father’s rifle, which was loaded and in their reach. BAM! Dead.
Another friend in junior high shot himself playing with his father’s loaded hand gun. BAM! Dead.
The next death happened when I was in the 9th grade. We all drove off campus for lunch. Well, I didn’t drive yet, but I was blonde and cute, so I easily found a ride and was spared the cafeteria food. Every single day, we drove the same country road. We passed the same friends, classmates, upperclassmen. We went to Sonic, and McDonald’s, and Subway, and Taco Villa, and every single day we drove back down the same two lane country road until one day. One day, four guys decided to pass another car on the shoulder, in the ditch, and they lost control, and one of them died. This was the first funeral I attended of a friend. Standing room only, sad music, and the chorus of, “everything happens for a reason.” “It’s all part of God’s plan.”
Tenth grade, another car accident, another friend, another funeral, another string of bullshit lines.
Junior year of high school, I became friends with Jason. He had big blue eyes, freckles on his nose, and a wide smile, and he knew how to make me laugh. He always sat next to me on the bus to Speech and Debate tournaments, and we talked the entire time, laughed until my cheeks hurt, and occasionally slept until we arrived to whatever high school was hosting the tournament. He was larger than life, but smaller than I. He was my friend, my good friend, and I loved him. The summer between our Junior and Senior year of high school, I got a phone call. He was gone. Dead from a car accident. Another friend, another funeral, another string of bullshit lines. My older brother came into my room and held me while I wept. He said it would be okay, and eventually it was, but still as I type this, I can’t see through the tears. Jason. He had the best laugh.
Senior year, Calculus class, Thursday afternoon: My friend Allison, Jennifer, and I sat together, all excited for prom, talking nonstop about dresses and hair and parties. “I’ve decided to go to prom. Jack and I found a dress last night. It hardly even looks like I’m pregnant,” Allison said.
“I’m so glad,” I responded honestly. I told her several times that nobody would care if she came to prom pregnant, that it was something she should experience. “We’ll all have a great time.” We whispered about plans for the rest of the class. I walked out and headed to my last class of the day, Government. As I turned the corner and walked down the hall, I saw my good friend, Katy, in the school office. Her dad was there, which wasn’t normal. Then I watched her sag, drop to the ground, shaking and sobbing.
I continued to Government, sat down in my desk and asked every single person who walked in if they knew what was going on. I heard a scream. Finally one of my classmates walked in clutching her books to her chest with a look, that look, on her face.
“What happened, Angie?”
“Jack just blew his brains out.”
I looked at her then, questioning. Did she really just say that?
“What?” I asked, defensively, hugging myself.
She repeated it again, stretching out the words this time, “Jack just blew his brains out.”
I can still see Angie’s face. I can still feel my heart shatter. I can still hear the scream of my friend, my pregnant friend, who found out that her boyfriend, her husband actually, the father of her unborn baby, the guy who helped her pick out her prom dress the night before had just shot himself in the head with his grandfather’s shot gun. Katy, who I saw in the office, was Jack’s aunt. They were only a year apart and were more like siblings. I cried, big salty wet tears, sitting in my chair, heart broken for Katy, for Allison, and for myself. Jack? He was so young, so happy, so beautiful, such a great guy. Football player, popular, great looking, nice, funny, smart. Sure, his parents made him marry his high school girlfriend since he got her pregnant. Sure he wasn’t ready. Maybe he thought it was the end of the world, but suicide? His Junior year of high school?
He didn’t die immediately. He was in the hospital for two days. Prom was Saturday. He died that morning. We all agreed to go to prom anyway. My friend Katy, Jack’s aunt, was crowned prom queen. She cried giant ugly tears. We all did. They played his favorite song and dedicated the prom to him and said he was dancing with the angels. That is was all part of the plan. That he was in a better place. That it all happened for a reason.
Freshman year of college. Another friend was killed in a car accident. My high school boyfriend’s best friend. Another funeral. Same story every time.
Sophomore year of college: a kid in my church got killed. He was sixteen. He went through a stop sign and was smashed by an eighteen wheeler. My father was the minister of the church and handled the funeral ceremony. He said something that I’ll never forget. “This was not God’s plan. This did not happen for a reason. We live in an imperfect world, and bad stuff happens.” It was the first time I attended a funeral and wasn’t pacified.
I’ve attended so many funerals. So many of my classmates have died. In the last two years, I’ve lost five friends, classmates that graduated with me. Five. One was my best friend in junior high school. I can still smell her house, like a second home to me. She fought cancer, fought it hard, but she lost, and she left behind a husband and her six year old daughter. Our mutual friend spoke at her funeral, talked about childhood memories, memories that I shared. Then almost exactly a year later, she died, too. Of cancer. Two kids and a husband left without her.
Don’t tell me that it happened for a reason. Don’t tell me that their deaths were all part of some plan.
The worst death though, the one that I still can’t seem to get over the grief happened in May. I woke from an uneasy sleep at 1:30 am. I looked at the caller ID. Kimberly’s name flashed. Kimberly, my best friend of thirty years was calling me at 1:30 in the morning. This can’t be good, I thought. I expected her to say that her grandmother died, maybe that her mother was ill. I braced myself to be her strength.
What she said will forever echo in my mind.
“Thomas,” she whispered. I could tell she was crying. I sat straight up in my dark room, heart sputtering in my chest.
“What, Kimberly? Thomas what?”
“Thomas is gone.” She sobbed.
“What do you mean gone? Gone where?”
She kept talking about a phone call, about his friend going to her sister’s house frantic telling her to come with him that he was gone, gone. “Dead,” she finally said.
“No. No! Are you sure? It must be a mistake.”
“I’m on my way there,” she continued and told me in broken words about the car accident, rolled several times, no seat belt, ejected, died instantly.
“I have to go!” She said. Her sister, who I love like she is my own sister, was calling on the other line. The child’s mother. The mother who gave birth to a boy eighteen years before, a boy who was no longer on this earth.
I called my dad and begged him to tell God that He made a mistake. I had to repeat myself at least a dozen times before he could understand, maybe because I was hysterical, maybe because it was 1:30 in the morning. I don’t think he realized what I was saying until I finally screamed at him to wake up and listen and told him to pray as hard as he could that it wasn’t true. “Please, Dad,” I begged through breathless tears.
I stopped praying a long time ago, but my dad still prayed. He still believed in miracles, and I needed one. Kimberly needed a miracle.
But there wasn’t one.
It didn’t happen for a reason. It wasn’t all part of a plan. It was definitely not part of God’s plan to take a kind, caring, clever, funny boy away from my best friend, away from his mother, away from his younger brother away from a world that had yet to give him all of the wonderful things he deserved.
Everything does NOT happen for a reason.
Stop saying that.