Goodbye Friend

Written By: Kim - Nov• 13•11

This weekend, we said goodbye to a good friend of my son’s. Between the viewing and the funeral, I am not sure who was more of a wreck; me or my son. We stayed at the viewing for about three hours. The teen friends who attended the viewing were simply amazing. They cried, but they consoled each other. When a new wave of teens arrived, the ones who had already been to see Connor Albright embraced them and led them through the steps. It was leadership and humanity at its best.

Connor Bingham Albright, 08/28/97 - 11/07/11

The morning of the funeral, I found myself amazingly composed. I managed not to turn in to a water faucet until they shut the lid of Connor Albright’s coffin. The complete sense of closure and goodbye overwhelmed me. I haven’t cried that hard since I buried a friend’s son in 2006 or my Mom in 2002. As a mother, this sight broke my heart.

The church’s pastors and the Air Force chaplain were amazing. They remained composed and comforted us with their words. It always amazes me that during times of mourning our clergy comfort us so. I always find the strength to continue forward. They reminded us that mourning is ok. It is part of the grieving process. They reminded us that Connor’s soul is on the other side and that it should be our goal to embrace Jesus to make sure we are reunited with him one day.

The family’s grief counselor asked all of Connor’s friends to stand. She spoke to them words of encouragement and consolation. She told them that Connor took great joy in his friendship with them and that they should never forget that. She reminded them that is was ok to continue to speak about him and talk to his family about their memories of Connor. 

She also told the teens that in the darkest hours of the night when the family awoke in grief, it comforted them tremendously to see Connor’s friends commenting on his Facebook page.

Connor’s brother said his account received over 300 friend requests when news of his death broke. He accepted them all because his family wanted to stay in touch with the kids so they would know what was going on. Social media served us well during a crisis.

The counselor then went on to read the most amazing letter from Connor’s family. They spoke to the community: the teachers, grief counselors, friends and finally, directly to Connor. As she laid her hand on Connor’s coffin and read the closing part of the letter, the family told Connor they were not mad at him. That they understood that sometimes the adolescent brain does not connect the permanency of death with actions. They told him is baby brother, to be born in January 2012, will know him just as they do. It was the second time that morning that I cried so hard my shoulders shook. None of us ever wish to write words of condolence, but the family’s eloquence and simple heartfelt message to the community and their son during their time of unimaginable sorry was just beautiful.

It was clear that the teen friends of Connor Albright needed this closure. As I was viewing the Facebook stream yesterday afternoon, the children commented that the finally thought everything would be all right. The sun will come out tomorrow and thank you Connor Albright for reminding us of that.

A Teenage Friend’s Suicide

Written By: Kim - Nov• 08•11

One of my son’s friends committed suicide. Connor Albright was 14 years old.

©David Knox courtesy of stock.xchng

I met this child two weeks ago. He had a direct personality, introduced himself, looked me in the eye and made me feel welcome. Did I mention that I was sitting at my son’s lunch table at the time? In junior high school. My son had forgotten his lunch but he also had no money on his lunch account. So, I packed it quickly, delivered it and decided to stay for the 10 minutes that were left for the lunch. Some of my son’s other friends at other tables were eyeballing me. I waved. Oh the horror of having your Mom at school!

His friend’s video, RIP My Love is a touching tribute to her friend. Connor Albright seemed like the kind of teen I would have chosen to be friends with my son. He had an outgoing personality and did well in school. He treated my son with respect and was loyal. But he was carrying around a burden that none of us saw. A burden so huge that he thought the only option was to take his own life. Dear God, I cannot believe I had to type that. This boy was 14. What could be so awful at that age that you lose your willingess to live? Who has said something to you that makes you believe that God made a mistake when he made you? That you are disposable and have no value or right to be here any longer?

Here is this child of God who always made everyone smile. His friends are distraught and mourning. His parents are devastated. Everyone is asking why. Everyone is wondering if the signs were there are they ignored them. Everyone wants to go back in time and stop it.

But we cannot. We have to put one foot in front of the other and move. Our routine will, no doubt, include a memorial service and funeral. There will be many tears, stories and hearts breaking because this child is gone.

He made a final decision to end his life. We may never know what his tortured soul was going through when he chose this permanent solution to a temporary problem. He did not enter this world alone nor did he deserve to go out alone. But he made that choice and denied those who loved him a chance to help. He left us alone to pick up the pieces. We must band together and support each other. We must tell the people that we love how much we love them. We must make sure that other teens do not think suicide is an option.

Being a teen sucks sometimes. People are mean. Rules are ever present. Very few people understand you. You cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. You are trying to figure out you and everyone else. It’s you against the world.

I get it because I too was a teenager once.

It gets better. Much better. My Mom used to tell me that there is a reason God does not let us see the future. He has so many wonderful things in store for us that if he showed us even a small amount, our hearts and minds would not be able to take it all in. And for any future bad things that happen, we can neither comprehend our grief nor change it.

Everyone has down days. If you need a friend, seek one out. It’s ok to be sad and mad. Talk to someone, especially an adult. I buried my Mom nine years ago. Here is what I learned about grieving.

You will cry, daily at first. Then every other day. Then a week will go by and you will realize you have not cried. Guilt might kick in and you will cry anyway. Then another week, maybe two and you will not have shed a tear. Does that mean you no longer grieve? No. It means you are going through the grieving process and getting on with your life. This is not wrong.

There is no mountain we cannot overcome when we climb together. Lean on your friends, siblings, parents, counselors, priest, pastor, rabbi or iman. While we cannot take away your pain, we can help you carry your burden until it becomes lighter.