There is a tragic story circulating on the news this week about a young 11 year old boy who, tired of the incessant bullying he endured every day at school, came home one afternoon, went upstairs to his bedroom and hung himself. That alone is enough to make this grown woman cry, but as details of his final day have become known, I am haunted by a question that he asked his best friends hours before he died: “Will you miss me when I am dead?”
Interviews with one of his young best friends reveal that, faced with this question, the young man didn’t know how to respond, but he stated, “I knew he was always sad, and I prayed for him.” While that is a great response for a young child to have, “I prayed for him…”, it almost makes the story even more tragic. What guilt is this young child going to have as he struggles with the knowledge that there was nothing he could do to relieve his friend’s hurt, pain, and anguish that so consumed him, he thought the only solution was to take his life.
So, two thoughts come to me from this story: 1) “Will you miss me when I'm dead”; and 2) what actions did I do, as a child, that may have profoundly affected someone else – in a negative way? First question: I think everyone ponders what impact they have on the lives of others. I am saddened to think that a child as young as 11 had to think those thoughts. I think I have mentioned before, anytime I go to a funeral or memorial service, I listen closely to what testimonies are given about the deceased – and wonder, what will people say about me when I have passed on? Will the memories be good ones or bad ones? Will memories of me bring a smile to the face or the thought of “good riddance to old rubbish”? Will someone stand up and say, “she was a really nice person” or when they open the floor for comments, will there be silence deep enough to hear the proverbial pin drop? I pray that I live my life in such a way that when I am laid to rest, and my life is over, the memories of me will be good ones that will last for a long, long time.
Second, what impact, as a child, did I have on the lives of my classmates? I know that I was not a bully – in the famous words of Michael Jackson, “I'm a lover, not a fighter.” (hahaha) But, in my quest for good grades and honor roll status, did I ignore a fellow classmate who just wanted to be my friend? Probably. In hanging out with my friends, did I snub the classmate who wasn’t (in my opinion) as pretty, as smart, as important, as my friends and I were. Maybe. I probably wasn’t “over the top” about it – I wasn’t maliciously cruel and evil – but I often was tarred with the “she’s so conceited” brush. Maybe disinterest was mislabeled as conceit – and, maybe (on some level) I was conceited. I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t. I do know that I truly pray that I didn’t harm anyone through my childish behavior. I pray I didn’t wound anyone with a careless word or deed or an “I’ll call you” that never culminated in an actual phone conversation. I would hope that I am better about that now that I am an adult, but in all honesty: I know that there are times that I am less than I need to be when it comes to relationships. And for that, I offer a public and blanket apology.
My heart goes out to the family of the young man whose life is over way too early. I pray for his young friends who are dealing with the “why didn’t I know? What could I have done to stop this?” guilt. And most importantly, I pray for the children who, on a daily basis, thought it great fun to tease and bully and torment this young child. Whatever their reasons, I pray that this tragedy opens their eyes to the fact that our words and actions and deeds have consequences – and we need to be cognizant of that fact – even when we are just children.