That morning started out like every other: up early, lunches made, kids up, fed, dressed and off to the bus stop. That is, until the phone rang at 7:45 a.m. The sound of my best friend’s voice was so agonizing, almost unrecognizable, as she told me, “Will killed himself last night.” What? WHAT? No. There must be some mistake. Will was a strapping, athletic, popular 15-year-old whom all the other kids flocked to. He had a great family and lots of friends. Surely this was not happening. It was not possible that Will would do this. Not possible.
- For help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day.
But I jumped in the car, kids still standing at the bus stop, and raced down the street to my friend’s house. Then I saw the police car, the CSI van, and it was like I was in a nightmare. This couldn’t really be happening. Not to this family. Not in our nice little community. Yet as I ran inside, past the pastor from church, past the detectives in the hall, and saw my friends John and Susie in their living room, it hit me. This is real. Our lives were never going to be the same. I was going to be coming here every morning and getting their three other kids ready for school and then helping Susie to get up and get dressed, because there was no way she was going to recover from this. My happy, energetic friend was gone, I was sure of it.
What happened next was nothing short of miraculous. The kids, Will’s friends, immediately sprung into action. In a state of shock, they planned a memorial. Quiet as church mice, they came in droves. Teachers, coaches, friends, even strangers spoke of the memories they had, of all the ways that Will had helped them through tough times. He was a freshman. He had completed only eight weeks of high school, yet he had touched so many lives.
It seemed that our community immediately came together not only to support this family in their time of need but to do anything we could to prevent this from happening to anyone else. I had never thought much about suicide, and definitely never expected it to happen so close to home. I think the general feeling was, “If this could happen to them, it could happen to any of us,” and that scared us.
We had to get these kids to realize that nothing…NOTHING is worth this. They needed to talk to one another. They needed to know who to go to if they were feeling down. Teen suicide, a subject often avoided before, was now dinner conversation in my home and many others. The good news is, countless teens have been helped by their friends after hearing the message. My own son spoke to me about a child at school he was worried about, and because he wasn’t afraid to do so, his principal contacted the family in time to help the child. Kids are truly looking out for one another. They get it. They are telling someone, and lives are being saved.
Crazy thing is, if Will were here, he’d be leading the pack. So we will go on, keep his memory alive, do what he would have done, help his friends and anyone who will listen. This is just the beginning.
Lisa Lampel lives in Johns Creek, GA with her husband Jeff and her three kids, Jake (16), Drew (13) and Emmie (8 )