Beyond Words

My kids went to a Catholic grade school. For those of you not familiar with the system, let me introduce you. The population waxes and wanes at my kids’ school, 50-100 kids per grade matriculate in the same building from first through eighth grade (kindergarten and preschool now too, by the way, but not when my kids were that age). It’s a big one by today’s Catholic school standards, but still a relatively small school option. Like most Catholic schools, it tries to stay affordable by relying heavily on volunteers. Sports, classroom aides, chaperones, scouting, theater, other extracurriculars, all staffed by parent volunteers. Most families see each other at Mass on Sundays too.

In other words, we interact. After 8th grade kids scatter – there are several excellent public and Catholic high school options on our city. My son’s class graduated 8th grade last year; his class of approximately 80 moved on to about seven different high schools. Life changes.

My last post was about the reporting of a suicide in the local news. The boy was a senior at a Catholic high school, one well-attended by graduates of my kids’ school.

Sadly, beyond sadly, sadly beyond words, the topic moved closer to home within hours of that post. A boy from my son’s grade school class died by suicide.

I could write volumes here about what it’s been like to be a parent and member of the parish through this so far. Maybe someday. Not today. It’s still an unnavigable whirlpool in my brain.

One lesson I learned from having cancer is that the search for an answer to why is a pointless and destructive waste of time. I’ve tried to impart my hard-earned wisdom over the last couple of weeks – the pursuit of the unknowable distracts from what matters. Even if you could know what he was thinking the moment he decided, it wouldn’t satisfy you. The best we can do, I’ve advised again and again, is accept and figure out how to move forward.

All the while, my hypocritical self has been trying to figure it out why.

I get the urge. It’s the same as wanting to understand why people get cancer. In part, in large part perhaps, we want to know how we can be sure it won’t happen to us. We want to point to something and say AHA! See!  That’s what caused it and that does not apply to me. That beast will never get any closer. Guaranteed.

Into the abyss of non-understanding, we toss answers that fit our narrative.

People suspicious of social media blame it. People who had lonely teenage years wonder if there was a lack of close relationships. People who’ve struggled with mental illness ask whether there was something undiagnosed. People who see the world as a dark and chaotic place see this as something that could happen to anyone.

Me, I’ve been wondering if high achieving kids are more at risk. In this theory, kids don’t learn how to struggle in the early years because things come easy. Once they do hit the inevitable wall, they don’t know how to cope or ask for help.

You don’t have to look very far outside my four walls to figure out why I’m wondering that.

As the expression goes, we don’t see things as they are, we see things as WE are.

Apart from a gazillion other things that I’ve learned in the last couple of weeks, I’ve learned that I need to stay aware and let go, not just of the need to know why but of my belief in the existence of why.

Recognize it and let it go. Over and over and over.

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