I pass over this bridge several times a week. Every time I do, I marvel at how beautiful it is – tall, graceful, and exquisitely elegant. Its gothic towers carry the gentle curve of the main cables, from which its slender deck is suspended. Its spires pierce the sky – a form echoed in the lights lining the rails. About three weeks after I took this photo, on a quiet Sunday morning, a 15-year old boy jumped to his death from its deck. As anyone would, I shuddered at the horrific news, and sent the inevitable generic rays of sympathy to his people. Suicide is such a devastatingly selfish act *), that leaves kinfolks reeling with remorse, excruciating pain, and a tremendous dose of guilt – whether warranted or not. It wasn’t until four days later I learned that the boy actually was someone we all knew.
Stunned, with holes in our guts, our hearts in our throats, and tears in our eyes, we went to his memorial. Suicide memorials are brutal, because the wounds are so deep and fresh, and laced with endless numbers of “what-ifs” that no one will ever know the answers to. Every fiber of your being wants to comfort the family, and wrap them in a protective, imaginary blanket of love, but it’s impossible. The raw, visceral, throbbing pain is both visible and palpable, and will have to live out its course, at its own rate. If you ever want to see what real pain looks like, look at a parent who has just lost a child to suicide. It is a harrowing experience – mostly because there is absolutely nothing you can do to help.
I’m not normally a praying person, but this week, I’m calling on the forces of the universe to send the family the strength and power it needs to get through this. Dear, sweet Spencer – where you saw a means to an end, I only saw beauty. I hope you found the light you were looking for at the end of the bridge. And, I promise you, that every time I see your mother, I will hug her long and hard. Nothing anyone can do will ever fill the void you left, but that won’t stop me from trying.
*) After input from several, I feel I need to change my wording here. “Selfish” was not the right word to use. Instead I should probably have said, that although at first it may appear to be a selfish act, it is the result of being overcome with a pain so powerful, that a forced separation from ones body is the only perceived means of escape. I am sorry if my poor wording caused anyone additional pain – it was not intended. Just ignorance on my part.