posted on Mar, 21 2006 @ 02:19 PM
I wrote this essay recently and link to it in my signature. It isn't fiction - I only wish it was. I'm posting it here - I hope no one objects. I
may delete it at some point myself.
Why I mourn
For some time now, my “mood” on ATS has been “mourning” or “still mourning”. The following is an attempt at an explanation. Perhaps
this is unusual, unseemly, or inappropriate. Nonetheless, I write this and post it here for what I hope are good reasons. First, as a means of
personal catharsis – I’ve often found that I gain a lot of comfort from writing and particularly from reading it again later. I also wanted to
find some way to honor my friend and at the same time reach others who may find themselves in a similar place. The first names have not been changed,
but for the sake of privacy last names are omitted, as are specific locations.
Danny B. entered this world on November 10, 1987, as the song goes, in the usual way. He departed it, by his own hand, 18 years and 4 days later.
I first met Danny at N_____ Baptist Church in 2000. When we met, he was a pretty typical 13-year-old boy - skinny and awkward. Simultaneously, Danny
was unusual in his wit and intelligence. We formed a fast friendship because we both enjoyed sarcasm, video games (I’m told he was “world-class”
at Starcraft and other games), and talking about science. As he grew up, I saw such great potential in him. He wasn’t just smart – he was
brilliant. I invited him to my laboratory and gave him a tour. He just seemed to soak up his surroundings and asked dozens of penetrating, thoughtful
questions. We hung out together at church functions and elsewhere. I taught him how to play golf (badly).
When I was asked to teach his Sunday school class a few years ago, I took a chance and attempted a course based on C.S. Lewis’ “Mere
Christianity”. Danny, who had accepted Jesus as Savior at the age of 7, was enthralled by Lewis’ writings. He got it while the rest stared
restlessly at the clock. About a year ago, his family left N_____ and began to attend a different church. Unfortunately, this meant that Danny & I
didn’t see as much of each other. Occasionally, I’d run into him, his folks, or his older sister and get an update.
He was working through his senior year in the standard way – alternating between hard work, indifference, and contempt. In October, I chatted with
his mom when she stopped by the church – she was worried about him because he was slacking at school and being disrespectful. She suspected he had a
girlfriend because he started dressing nicely, wearing cologne, staying out late, and refusing to divulge his whereabouts. I told her that I would
give him a call – I figured he was just being a typical 17-year-old kid. You know – a jerk.
I never made the call.
On Wednesday, November 16 the pastor asked me to accompany him to Danny’s home. On the way over he explained that Danny had gone missing. From what
he knew, Danny had left for school on Monday morning and hadn’t been heard from since. I quickly learned that Danny had left his backpack behind
including his cell phone.
All of us alternated between cautious optimism - Danny had apparently met and become a bit enamored with a college-aged girl who lived in CO, and
despair – the week before he disappeared he had withdrawn money from his parents’ checking account and used it to buy a shotgun as a “birthday
present” to himself. Danny told his best friend and his father that he had always wanted to own a gun and that his folks had forbade him. He had
just turned 18 and could no longer be prevented. His friend’s father, a senior police official, bought the story.
We spent hours scouring Danny’s recent life. Nothing of significance was found in his room. His MySpace.com blog produced no great revelations
although it contained a strange story about a case of road rage a few weeks previous in which someone followed him home from work one night. His last
posting late Sunday night was a rambling essay on people who were too uptight. When no one was watching, I searched his web history and temporary
internet folder and found nothing unusual for an 18-year-old boy: links to video game web sites and a some porn.
A missing person report was filed, but the Police Department apparently had other things to do. In the absence of any information to the contrary, the
authorities assumed that Danny had run away. Local media outlets stated that they do not investigate or report on runaways.
As the days passed with no news, I hoped and prayed with all my might & strength that Danny had just decided to take a little breather from life and
had shacked up with the mysterious girlfriend. Deep down in my heart, however, I knew what was coming. I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud or
allow my thoughts to linger on it for more than a moment, but I knew.
I got the call on Saturday. Some hunters had found a body. It was my friend. Danny had apparently driven out to the wilderness on the west side of
town in his pickup truck, got out, sat down, put his shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. A “note” left in the truck along with his wallet
(still containing several hundred dollars) listed his full name, along with his parents’ and sister’s names, his SSN, date of birth, and date of
death, November 14, 2005.
On Wednesday, November 23rd I attended a memorial service for Danny at his high school. The gymnasium was filled to capacity. I was a pallbearer along
with 5 of his soccer teammates and his coach. The eulogies confirmed what I already knew – Danny was brilliant, a star athlete, popular, a good
friend, and an all-around great guy. His coach spoke eloquently about his grief and his anger and I knew exactly what he was
His family asked me to prepare a powerpoint slide show for the service. I spent many hours over two days scanning in the photos and getting the
presentation ready – his folks gave me two or three hundred pictures to go through and only a fraction of them were digitized. Somehow, by God’s
grace, I finished the job and set the show to music.
Throughout the process, I had to stop often. He was such a happy looking kid, lots of smiling, lots of genuine embraces of his parents, heartwarming
images of him sharing some activity with his sister, goofing with his friends, at the prom, playing soccer.
Why, Danny, Why? WHY?!!? Jerk. Why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t I call you? Why did you do it? Didn’t you know
that I, we loved you?
When the slide show played at his service, the catharsis I had hoped for did not materialize. I had worked too hard compartmentalizing the process for
the sake of my own sanity, that I wasn’t able to release my pain yet. Fortunately (if that is a word one can use in this context), my work eased
some of the grief of his friends & family. At least that is what I am told.
The burial was excruciating. I would have given almost anything not to be there, not to be standing alongside my young friend’s grave. For weeks
afterward, two fingers on the hand I had used to hold the casket remained numb – I must have pulled a muscle or something while carrying him.
The day after the funeral was Thanksgiving. A week later, I moved to my new home, many, many, miles away. His grave is marked with a stone that
contains a special piece of Danny’s wisdom: “No heroes, just a Savior”.
I still talk to Danny’s folks when I can. His mother is beyond grief. She tells me that she still goes to bed at night, convinced that it is all a
bad dream and that tomorrow she will wake up and Danny will be there. I don’t know how she survives. She teaches high school math (at another
school). I’m told that she can only bring herself to make it a few times a week. The other teachers cover for her. I think his dad is barely hanging
Danny’s mom tells me that she watches the slide show I made almost every day. I was afraid that she might obsess over it when she asked for a copy.
Maybe I shouldn’t have given it to her, but how could I have refused? It’s still on my computer, but I can’t watch it.
I’ve read that most adults and adolescents have suicidal thoughts at one point or another in their life. Some people think that the world would be
better off without them. I don’t know about everybody, but my world is most assuredly NOT better off without Danny.
Ever since, I have made it a point to tell every teen I know that I care about them and would do anything for them. I think Danny knew that too, but
apparently … well …apparently something else entirely was in his mind that Monday morning.
If you’re reading this and find yourself in the same dark place that Danny was in – please, do me a favor and call someone, anyone. Believe me,
you matter to someone.