I was about to get into the shower when Luau came to find me. I normally would have kept moving as time was short, but something in his voice stopped me cold. There was a quiet urgency in the way that he said my name. Something wasn’t right.
“I don’t have any details,” he said, “but I need you to know. There was another one.”
A second teenage girl in a Boston suburb had taken her life in as many weeks. A second beautiful young girl who should have been getting up to go to school, trying to figure out what to wear, quarreling with a sibling, scrambling to turn in a project, looking forward to seeing a friend, getting ready for the game .. was gone.
I went to Katie. “I need to talk to you about something,” I said.
I told her what had happened. I told her that I wanted her to hear it from me and not via text or Instagram or the never-ending stream of chatter in the hallways at school. I told her that I needed her to know – to know that being a teenager can be hard. That emotions can get big and scary and that hormones can magnify them and that there might come a time where she feels hopeless.
And I needed her to know – to know that hopeless isn’t real. That there is never, ever, ever actually a time where there is no hope. And that because of that, that there is never, ever, ever a time in which suicide is really the only option, the only way out.
I needed her to know that she could always talk to me or her dad but that if there were ever a time at which she felt like she couldn’t, that she has so many other people in her life to whom she can turn. That she is never alone and that shame can never keep her from seeking help.
“If all else failed,” she said grinning, “I could always move to Nebraska where I don’t know anyone and just start a new life.”
I smiled back at her, “Yup, there’s always Nebraska.”
I told her that I didn’t want to scare her with the conversation, but that I thought it was important that we talk about it. I told her that I didn’t think that any of this would ever be an issue for her, but that .. well, I was fairly certain that neither of the two girls’ parents would have thought that it would be an issue for them either.
I began to well up. Those parents. By God, those parents. I just wanted to reach out to them. To hug them. To shout out the window and into the universe, “I’m so damned sorry.”
“I get it, Mama,” she said. “It’s ok.”
I looked at my girl. My beautiful, brave, smart-as-awhip, compassionate, creative, talented, hopeful girl. My girl who would leave in a few minutes to go get ready for school. To figure out what to wear, to quarrel with her sister, to turn in a project, a day late, as usual.
Just as those two girls should have been doing.
Won’t do again.
I want to scream. To throw something. To watch something shatter.
I want to break something that doesn’t matter to unbreak what does.
I want to Bring. Them. Back.
Did they understand the finality of all this? Could they have?
If only they could have believed in Nebraska.
To Katie and Karen, may you rest in peace, sweet angels.
To the families, there are no sufficient words. I am so, so sorry.
For emergency help — National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK.