Lobo wanted to be a wolf. Or a fox. Something wild and free and perfectly capable of surviving and thriving on its own. And that had a really fabulous, furry tail.
On Thursday, I sat in an overflow audience of a funeral home as we laid his small body to rest.
At only 12, Lobo still had another six months until he reached his teens, making him one of the youngest kids in his 7th grade class. Now, he will always be the youngest kid in his class. They will move on. He cannot.
I only met Lobo a couple of times. Once, he went to Hyper Lad’s birthday party and stayed the night. I enjoyed my time with him. He was a good kid, full of conversation and odd, compelling turns of mind. He wasn’t like talking to your average pre-seventh-grade kid. A while before the birthday party, Lobo hit the Renaissance Fair and came home with a fox tail. A real (ish) fox tail that could be hooked over his belt, as if Lobo was a wolf (or fox) in reality and was just slumming it as a human for a little while.
His death hit the school hard. Hyper Lad’s best friend Scruffy was very close with Lobo and, in fact, was the one who introduced Lobo to Hyper Lad. Scruffy wasn’t dealing at all well with his friend’s death, moreso because of the way Lobo died.
Over the weekend, Lobo killed himself. While his dad was out of the house, Lobo found something strong enough, tied a slip knot in it and then hung himself until dead.
During the funeral service, I watched as Lobo’s dad, who had already survived the death of Lobo’s mom from beast cancer, came to the fresh realization again and again that his son would not be sitting up from the casket, would not be laughing over the joke he’d played. Watching Lobo’s dad was like watching. . . I’m trying to think of a horrible metaphor to drive home the point, but the problem is I can’t think of anything more horrible than what he went through.
I won’t — can’t — put myself into the mind of a 12-year-old who considers that the only way to make his pain stop was to end his life. I just can’t make that kind of conceptual or emotional leap. I don’t know what went through Lobo’s head or why the help so many people tried to give him wasn’t enough.
That’s only one of the tragedies left behind when someone takes his own life. No one can know for sure if there wasn’t just that one little bit of help they could have offered, just one word that might have made a difference. Not knowing can be the second-worst part, behind only missing the one who’s gone
Because I’m a parent and I’m constitutionally incapable of not turning any situation into a teachable moment, I talked to all three of our young dudes about suicide. We talked about Lobo and what he did. And we straight-out talked to each of the young dudes about suicide. Having been through adolescence before, we know what fresh hell it is every day. Thoughts both good and bad roar through adolescent minds, each given equal weight, and adults never know where they will land.
No matter how bad their problems, we told our young dudes, no matter how heavily it bears down on your back, it will pass. It might not get better, it might only be that the pain comes from somewhere new, but this pain will pass. And there will be something new in your life. There will be another reason to wake up tomorrow, another reason to look forward to your next breath.
Ending your life, ends forever the possibility that you will once again feel joy. You will die knowing only pain. That would be a shame. There is so much joy in life, so many wonderful things to be seen, if only the eyes of the depressed were capable of looking past the agony parked on their souls.
If you out there are one of those people who can’t see beyond the hopelessness of the next breath, who can feel only the pain of a life gone horribly wrong, there is help. I won’t say hope, but there is help. Even if you can’t reach out to someone you know, there are caring people out there right now who want nothing more than to listen to you, to listen to your problems and commiserate with your woes.
There are folks out there right now who want to hear from you. The national suicide prevention lifeline is at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It’s open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Don’t wait. If you think your friend is contemplating suicide, be a better friend and talk to someone about it. Better for your friend to be mad at you because you brought in an outsider.
Suicide is a voluntary act. You can stop it, but it’s up to you. Choose wisely. There is more to life than pain.
I only wish Lobo could have known that before he decided there was no other way out.