Bristol, Connecticut, U.S.A. — On the morning of Feb. 2, 1996, a strange warm feeling filled the air. Some spots of the parking lot where I stood had small patches of dark, sandy snow left over from a storm the week before.
I paced back and forth in front of the large station wagon my sister sat in. She had the windows rolled down – something rarely seen in February. We were both quiet.
Inside the school building, happy students sat in their classrooms, glad there had been a 90-minute delay in opening because of icy roads.
I stared down at my black pants, and then my black shoes. I looked at my sister. She sat in the car almost in a daze. She also wore black.
I checked my watch. We had to be there at 9:30. It was 9 o’clock. I thought back to a week ago. What had led up to this point? I thought awhile, and remembered….
I received the news on a Saturday. I was getting ready to go out when my cousin called. She sounded frantic on the phone. Someone I knew had died. I was left speechless. I stayed silent when I found out he had killed himself. I knew that he had problems, but not this bad.
And now, a week later, I waited for my ride to come and take me to the funeral. The night before I had been to the wake. It seemed unreal.
The coffin was open and displayed in front of a room of weeping people. A line extended along the wall as they waited for a chance to kneel before him. I was last in that line.
My knees shook and my lips quivered when my turn finally arrived. I slowly stepped forward and kneeled.
He seemed to finally be at peace with himself. He was surrounded by cards, roses, pictures and even his favorite hat. This couldn’t be happening. Coffins weren’t made for teenagers.
I said a quick prayer and stood up. As I did, the family rose. I walked towards them. A firm handshake for his father, a hug for his mother, and a pat on the heads of his younger sisters. And then I sat down.
I had not slept well that night. I had a new outlook on life. It wasn’t as endless as it had seemed before. I didn’t feel as immortal as I felt a week ago with my friends.
It had taken 12 years, but suddenly everything all my teachers had told me seemed to make more sense.
I thought about all those times I had been mean to others in school. Could they possibly be suicidal also? Yes, perhaps. I felt like crying.
Why had I ridiculed other people for being different? Why did I laugh with the others when they teased the people who didn’t wear brand name clothing? Did I enjoy it? No. Deep down inside, I knew it was wrong. And now I finally realized it.
It was sad that it took a kid’s death to show me that life shouldn’t be taken for granted.
I kicked a chunk of snow off my black shoes. I looked up and saw our ride coming down the street. I called my sister. She rolled up the windows, locked the car and waited beside me.
I felt inside my pants’ pockets. Two small packs of tissues.
I was sure I would use them.
Bryan Pena is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.