Recently I attended the wake for the son of a longtime friend. His son was an athlete - good grades, active, involved, and as far as his dad could see not involved with drugs. His death at 16 — at home — came without warning and with no visible “cause.” It is a mystery to his parents and his friends. Because he did not live in North Fulton, but not too far away, I don’t know if it was reported in the press. At least I hope that it was not. In general suicides are not reported unless a public figure is involved or there are extreme circumstances or an extreme event associated with the act. However, several weeks after this happened, I became aware of another suicide, eerily similar to that of my friend’s son, only this time it happened in North Fulton. The young man was a sophomore in high school, good grades and apparently little or no warning according to his peers. And this past week, yet again, a third suicide, under the same general circumstances. So what is going on? I don’t know, but as a parent, it frightens me. As a publisher it also brings me to a juncture where I think that it surely is time to at least start a discussion and report on this tragic news. As a parent, I would want to know. The part that most frightens me is that this is so personal and private that outside of the immediate family and circle of friends, and the student’s Twitter and Facebook networks, which are usually closed to parents and adults in general, there often is little or no outside awareness or knowledge. Yet, in spite of that, I happen to be aware of these three. There may be more. I cannot imagine what the lives of the parents and family of these teens must be like right now and respecting their privacy and their grief seems like the right thing to do. This newspaper can provide a forum for them now, or later, should they want to contact me to reach out to other parents or teens. I know that often in times of deep grief it can help. My personal email is RayAppen@gmail.com and my cell is 770-527-4042. I have no advice other than to suggest that parents keep talking to your kids and pay attention. You at least have the knowledge of these other tragedies and the time to reach out. I don’t have words for the parents of these teens who are no longer with us, other than how terribly sorry I am. Below is a slightly edited column written by my friend, whose son, Adam, took his own life. He lived in Cherokee county. My friend is the former Editor of the Forsyth Herald and currently is the Publisher of the Graham Star in Knoxville Tennessee. He wrote the column below for his own newspaper. I publish it with the hopes that in some small way it can possibly comfort another parent who has lost their child or perhaps help a young person understand. Check for updates and more information on northfulton.com in the days to come.
The toughest question a parent confronts
By JAMES BUDD Graham Star, Knoxville, Tenn. Publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org
I didn’t know until a week ago, but “why” is the toughest question a parent can ever confront. My 16-year-old son, Adam, took his own life between 2:30 and 3 a.m. Saturday, February 23. The same 9-pound, 6-ounce infant who peered with coal-black eyes at me for the first time at 3:33 a.m. Nov. 29, 1996, was gone from this earth. His mother, the only other person in the home, discovered his body later that morning. Adam slept late on Saturday mornings, and his mother expected to awaken Adam for another day. Instead, she saw the worst sight imaginable. Adam’s sister, Amanda, 12, was visiting me in Robbinsville. Yes, like 50 percent of most marriages, mine ended in divorce seven years ago, when I moved to Robbinsville. The day before Adam died, he got a haircut, opened a bank account, worked on his car, completed his homework for the following Monday and played Internet video games with his friends. There was not hint of the horrors to come. Adam’s mother went to bed at 12:30 a.m. and Adam said good night. My former wife’s husband was out of town. Adam was an honor student who hoped to attend Georgia Tech. I barely escaped algebra II, yet Adam was taking advanced calculus as a high school sophomore. When Adam was only 2 or 3 years old, he became fascinated with numbers. This is a rambling column, I know. It’s a cliché to say, “I’m shocked,” but shocked doesn’t come close to what I feel. I’m well beyond that. I’m in the office working because I put out newspapers, for better or worse. I don’t curse God. I don’t blame God. My only question is, “Why?” Why? Why? Why? After I heard the news, I carried my daughter back from Robbinsville to Waleska, Ga., where her mother lives, and together we told Amanda the horrible news. No child should have to endure such pain. A car wreck, a hunting accident and drowning death could be explained. But how does one explain suicide? And how do you explain it to a child? Seven or eight of Adam’s buddies spoke at his funeral on Feb. 27 in Canton, Ga. Some barely held back tears, but they told what a great friend Adam was. He always had a smile for others. He was on the track and field team. He was a big, strong boy, but mostly he was smart. All I know is I burned up the road between Cherokee County, Ga., and Graham County. In the valley at Andrews, I would look at the timeless Snowbird Mountains; I would ride up to Topton and turn left down Tallulah. The magic of these mountains and valleys spoke to me, and they consoled me. I can’t explain the peace I feel in this place. There is an antiquity in these mountains. We are mere humans. We come and go, but God watches over this land. We will all pass one day, but God will remain. Snow was falling slow and gracefully from the heavens the other night. I watched from my porch as it floated silently and effortlessly. Then I thought of my son and asked, “Why?”