Tideline deals with some deeply emotional issues; suicide, death, PTSD, sexual assault and redemption.
Still, it was unexpected when my wife received a call last night from the principal at the school where she teaches, telling her one of her students committed suicide that day by shooting himself.
We were actually just about to turn in for the evening, as we both had school to attend in the early morning (she as a teacher…me as a student). But that call shattered the stillness of our night and brought down a torrent of grief and sorrows.
My wife has been through that exact scenario before. In fact, sadly, she’s been to too many funerals and memorials for students who have passed from suicide or substance abuse. However, it never gets easier…the pain is always a punch in the gut and a dagger in her heart.
Almost immediately, she turned to me in tears and said, “I think I’m responsible.”
The young man, 17-years-old, was a respectful student with a great sense of humor. He had recently transferred to her school and was still trying to fit in. What made my wife think she played a part in the tragic emotional spiral that ended with a bullet in his brain? He was failing her class.
On a rational level she knows that whatever drove him to end himself goes far beyond his grade in math class. She knows that his pain, his desolate state-of-mind had to be pushed so far against the wall as to believe this – THIS – was the only way out. She knows that in her mind…but, in her heart, she agonizes over it.
That is the legacy of suicide; pain. Not just pain of loss but also the pain of guilt and helplessness. As a combat veteran, I know that feeling… I know the guilt of being the one who survived. “What if I had…” will always take you down a dark slope. With suicide, as with combat deaths, there are no easy answers.
I gave my wife a stuffed bear today. It was all I could think to do, other than hold her tight and wipe away her tears. She named him “Tyler” in honor of the student they lost.
The death becomes another watermark in the tideline… and the waves slowly wash it away.