17 years ago today, on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I stood in front of my mom and told her that I wanted to die. I was 14 years old. I imagine that many a teenage girl tells her mother such things. The hormones go crazy inside the teenage female body, causing intense mood swings and drama. As fate would have it, my mom took my threat seriously and she scheduled me a counseling appointment the very next day. That action most likely saved my life.
Tomorrow, I will honor the memory of a 15 year old boy who took his own life on April 29, 1991. His name was Chad Walter Harlow. He was 6'2", with blond hair that flopped in his eyes more often than not. He was very smart and a class clown. He was sweet and affectionate and a snob to some. He wasn't perfect, I can promise you that. But – he was loved. Tomorrow, his family will spend its 17th April 29th without him. His mom will go to his grave and leave flowers, most likely a planter of them, and she will mourn her youngest son's violent passing.
And what will I do, you wonder. I will spend it as I do every year. I will pray for his soul. I will pray for his family. I will pray for myself. And I will try to remember his smile and his mirth. I will conjure images of my past; images that don't readily come when called, due to their age. I will look for joy.
Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I am not just mourning an individual; one boy; one child; one life. I am mourning the loss of innocence for an entire Freshman class. I am mourning the loss of grandchildren for a mother and father who had no idea their son was sad. I am mourning the years that were lost to those who felt guilt and sorrow and despair over his untimely death.
I think, well, I know, that I will never again love with the abandon that I did at the age of 14. I have abandonment issues. I am glued together from years of being broken and chipped. It's okay. I will learn more this year than I did last year. I will change for the better. And this year, I will try to forgive myself for something that I cannot change; something that has haunted me for so long that I barely notice its presence anymore.
Today, I will make the same promise that I make every year -- yet never seem to follow through on: I will quit pushing people away just because I am afraid of losing them.
Personal Note to Someone from a Previous Life: Isn't it funny how you think you are supposed to learn one lesson - when another one is staring you in the face?