The pain of suicide

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 *names have been changed

There is a giant range of experiences we can have in life. They are of course either good or bad, and they affect the kind of person we grow into to. For me, it often seems easier to focus on the troubles I’ve had. But I have begun to see that with the trouble, come great opportunities for learning and growth. Troubles also generally come with little miracles. Things that are small, but just big enough to give hope or confidence in taking another step out to face the world again. When I look back and think, “How did I ever get through that?” The fine details begin to appear.

Have you ever loved someone so much you would do anything for them? Even die for them? That kind of love is the most beautiful creation we have been given. To be able to love like that is a gift that surpasses all other beauties. Most of us love our families like that from the beginning. Our parents, siblings, spouse and children. But it can be learned as well.

Have you ever had a friend mean that much to you? Have you ever loved a friend so much it hurts. You hurt when they hurt. You would give your soul to make them happy. It is overpowering, exhausting to feel this way and yet I would never have changed the passion I felt, the love I felt for my best friend, even though it sometimes hurt.

Sherise spent her first 14 years of life in Southern California. Nearly half the population is Hispanic. She had friends that were hispanic all her life. Dating them, however, created a problem with her parents as she found out after they had moved to my neighborhood.

I remember Juan from grade school and junior high. A shy, quiet, pudgy boy with a warm smile. When I saw him next in high school after a few years, he had gotten taller, had slimmed down a little, but he still had that warm smile, those dark eyes. Sherise really liked him. They were “going out”. She asked him to a dance. I wanted to go too, but I didn’t attend their High school and I was afraid of boys. So I decided to skip the dance, but go on the date prior to the dance, as a fifth wheel (another couple was coming with us).

We went down to the local college campus. The boys were blindfolded and were walked through the arboretum. They were trying to guess where they were. After we removed the blindfolds we sat down and had a picnic lunch. Then we went to the game center and went bowling.

I remember a few months after that, I had to go with my school to the local college for the  language fair. I saw the railing that Juan’s hand had slid along as he walked up the steps those few months ago. His hands that would never feel anything again.

A month after my fifth wheel date, Juan asked Sherise to Homecoming. This is where Sherise’s parents stepped in. She told me they sat down with her to have a chat. They told her that you marry who you date, so she should be careful. I was furious. Careful, why careful? Just around Juan? Because he was Hispanic?!?
They said they had seen other cultural marriages fall apart because of the difference in beliefs or ways of doing things. But Juan had lived in America nearly his whole life. Spanish was his first language but he had no accent at all when he spoke English. He was an American citizen, he lived life like any other American. I was so angry that they asked Sherise not to date him anymore.

At a school fundraiser, a car wash shortly after her parents had spoken with her, Sherise told Juan what her parents had told her. She told him it didn’t mean anything, that she cared for him and wanted to be with him. He was quiet, then got in his car and sped away.

As she told me this on that Saturday night, I envisioned the entire thing and suddenly I said, “Sherise, brace yourself, Juan may commit suicide.” Were those words given me to help us prepare? That was the last time Sherise saw Juan alive.

We had known he suffered from depression, just like Sherise and I both did. But we didn’t
know that things were so dire for him that he would snap, that the moment Sherise told him about her parents concerns, was his breaking point.

I remember the following Monday, another friend came to visit me. She had news about Juan. He had been found in the Canyon, a lawn mower in the back of his car, all the windows shut tight, Juan not breathing.


I didn’t see Sherise for a few days. The police had come to talk to her about what had happened before this event. She was numb, she was in shock. I was numb, I was in sock. And then, then, I was angry. I was furious that Juan would do something so heart breaking. He was gone, and I hurt more for Sherise at that time than I’ve ever hurt for anyone. I knew him too and was sad, but Sherise? What must she be thinking?
She was thinking she was to blame.

Rumors abounded at school. People called her racist,  nobody had the right story, not even the newspapers. Sherise received death threats in the mail, which her mother hid from her and told her years later about.
Why are people so quick to hate without really knowing why or if they are justified in doing so. And is anyone really ever justified in feeling pure hatred for another? There are much better things to feel in this world than hate, that venom that poisons the soul.

The impact that Juans death had on me and everyone around me was huge. I saw and I felt what it was like to lose someone by suicide, and I knew that never again would I seriously consider taking my own life. But I wanted to know how I would make it through without sinking into despair. For years I had struggled with severe depression. I blamed myself for it, telling myself it was all in my mind and I could fix it. I was wrong.
I talked to two of my friends at school about killing myself, all the time. One of them always laughed and made some joke about it, the other always smiled and said I shouldn’t talk about things like that and quickly changed the subject. It was a cry for help that they didn’t understand.

The suicide of my friend was devastating, but I decided to learn from it. I learned to turn to a better source of relief. I turned to God. I came closer to him than I had in a long time. On my knees, I wept. I cried out in anger asking him why. I begged him to help me be strong in fighting the thorn in my side. I felt his presence many a time in those dark hours and eventually I pulled through, stronger and with a greater knowledge of the love of my family, friends and Heavenly Father. I learned, that as I loved and hurt for Sherise, God loved and hurt for me. He wanted to help me pull through, and only waited for me to ask him.

I learned never to discount the feelings I have about calling someone, or just dropping by to say hi. We are often the vessels through which God answers others prayers, and what if we aren’t listening to him? I am so grateful for those who were listening to God in my time of despair, and I try hard to do the same.


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