On Sunday night a young man, a teenager, took his own life. He was a senior at the same school where my daughter in is Kindergarten. The outpouring of pain and love is overwhelming.
We are a relatively small community, with something like 250 families, but I did not know the young man well. Nevertheless, the reverberations of loss encompass the entire school family.
As I write, I do not know what extreme internal strife drove this young man to take his own life. Perhaps no one does.
This is a poem that is currently making it’s way around our school community:
I Have Made Ready a Room
I have made ready a room
here in my heart
with walls of warmth
and windows of color
toward every side of the cosmos.
Oceans, mountains, and clouds are without,
within – loving and light:
and here I invite you to come,
dear being I love.
Lead me in what you have learned
now that you have left your body
so early in life
and become a heavenly star:
the up-rising in dying!
by Albert Stefen
(Changed slightly for this occasion)
National Suicide Crisis numbers:
Austin/Travis County Crisis number:
For more information about suicide:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
I am so sorry for his family.
A friend of mine died recently; her suicide was drawn out, long, torturous, the suicide of active alcoholism. Here is a poem I wrote in her memory:
Holly in the Montane
In memory of Holly Ann Hamill, 1962 – 2007
I brought you with me into the Rocky Mountain National Park.
You are flying now with the golden eagle
And crashing down around boulders in Fall River.
My grief comes falling with the afternoon rain.
The storm clouds surround the peaks.
Everything changes so quickly.
In the evening the bull elk scream out in the meadows
calling the cows
challenging the other males.
One large 14-pointer herds his harem towards another group.
The screaming of the two leaders echoes among the hills.
The sound is eerie, other-worldly.
The smaller of the two gives up, leaves his family.
The larger bull bugles in triumph, circles and inspects the new cows.
Nearby, the smaller bull finds an even younger male to fight.
The cows of the newly integrated harem are oblivious
As the sounds of antlers crash and crack in frustration and anger.
Life is not fair.
The hawk plummets down to snare the cat.
The flash flood sweeps away two hikers.
You leave so much unfinished.
Life is not fair.
You knew it, Holly.
We know it.
You wrote because you couldn’t not.
You held on to that moniker.
Claimed it as your own.
You wrote because you had to.
I write tonight because you can’t.
Life is not fair.
You loved my sorrel soup, but you wouldn’t let me in …
To your heart
To your front door
I knocked and knocked.
I knew you were inside.
Oh why wouldn’t you let us in?
The rushing mountain stream throws charged ions into the air.
I breath it in, I breath you in
I brought you with me.
My heart breaks for your loneliness.
Your mind was as sharp as this mountain air
Your piercing wit, Your gentle, knowing laugh.
I could shake you by your shoulders, woman, for leaving us too soon.
But you are here and everywhere now, my friend.
You are here in the Rocky Mountains
Not initials carved into a tree trunk
Sweeping down the valleys with the wind
To land on a pine cone and take root with the nut
To burrow under the snow for warmth
To drink from the madly tumbling streams
To turn golden with the aspen leaves
You are with us all
In our sadness and love
Our unanswered questions
Doubt that we did enough, cared enough, loved enough.
We must bring you with us as we face our futures
Try to appreciate these lives we are left with
To honor you by honoring this one day
Which is really all we are given.
Since I can’t have another day with you
I will hold you in my heart
As I love this day, bestowed by God.
Here is the great cycle of life: the elk rut, beginning new life, attempt at immortality.
There is a heartbreak in the vastness.
So much of the mystery is lost to me
I catch only glimpses, left with the yearning for more.
Today, I hold the memory of your brilliance, your sweetness
And also the power of your dark side, the raw aspect you tried to hide.
Kali the destroyer thundered through your life
Her ferocious tongue licking at the edges.
In my sadness I might try and call you back.
Not the late-night crazy phone calls
But the clear beauty of your vision
The worlds you created with imagination and language.
You were always moving forward
But you had to go alone
You couldn’t take us with you.
So I come back to my day
The steady breath of my sleeping family, cozy in the camper
The warmth of life and love staving off the cold outside
And you are here, Holly, in my heart.
I live in beauty and grace, richer for knowing you.
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