On Saturday night, an 8th grader at our middle school committed suicide. I have sat down to write multiple times this week and just haven’t been able to do it. The words were too jumbled in my head. I think I feel ready now.
I have felt both blessed and cursed to be president of the home and school association over these past few days. Cursed because I have been in such frequent communication with the school and with my fellow parents that I can’t stop thinking about Alex and his family. I found that if people started talking to me about ‘regular’ things, I was shocked. How could anyone have any other thoughts?
But I feel blessed for two reasons. The first being pretty obvious. I was able to do something to help. Our community feels so helpless right now but I was able to act. I could ask and answer questions. I could arrange for meetings. I could communicate with parents. I could do. I feel lucky that I could.
And I blessed because I was reminded again of how amazing our community really is. We are going through a lot of contentious discussions in town right now about parking garages and teacher contracts and hospital expansions. And village council elections and baseball fields. It has been easy to see the negative that surrounds us but this week I was reminded of the good. Everyone just wanted to help. We wanted to listen and to talk and to learn and to hug each other. We just wanted to be together. Differences aside. We were together as parents and teachers in a community that needed a lot of extra love and we were all there to give it.
I was reminded that the teachers and administrators at our middle school are an amazing group of people. They have loved our children and us as parents each day this week. Every parent I have spoken to has talked about lucky we are to have these adults in the lives of our children. They have let the children talk and they have brought them back to routine. They have listened to what the children need and they have provided it.
Alex’s services were today. A special service was held this morning for children, teachers and families. The chapel was overflowing. The rabbi asked for all the children to fill the seats while the adults stood in any space they could find. I had debated not going. It sounded hard. I know the family but only a bit. I told myself they would be glad if I was there but would’t miss me if I wasn’t. I was thankful that a friend convinced me go because it was a truly special time.
We heard from Alex’s friends and teachers. We laughed together hearing about his ability to beat his math teacher at chess, how he could solve any math equation given to him and how he could make his friends laugh. We learned about his wry humor and his smirk-ish grin. We learned that he is a soul who will be missed by all those who knew him.
And then the rabbi spoke and his message was beautiful and so important. He did not dance around the fact that Alex committed suicide. Instead he told the children about a secret he himself had kept for 25 years, feeling unsure that there was an adult in his life with whom he could share his truth. He told the children that no one will ever know why Alex chose to take his own life. But he told the children that they all need to know there are adults ready to hear whatever might be heavy in their hearts. He told them that their parents will forgive them if they choose to take their secrets to someone else. Your most trusted adult does not need to be your parent. He told the children that one day, a long time from now, when they are grandmothers and grandfathers, they may just be there because they learned from Alex that sharing your hurt is better than holding it.
This community will miss you Alex. Rest in peace.