Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Letter to a Boy, who Died aged 18, by Suicide



Dear Tiernan,

I shouldn’t be writing you this letter. I should be hearing about you from my son, your childhood best friend. It should be about some course you are doing, or a plan that you all have to meet up. But that’s all gone. Now there’s just that awful day that you went missing. The day a boy was seen jumping off the bridge. Next time I saw you, you were in a coffin, your body, bashed up by the waves; bruised, broken, dead. The boy who told me ‘be nice to nerds, you’ll be working for them some day.’ The boy who I watched grow up, who I held great faith in. Dead at 18.
And what’s left? The rest of us. Your inconsolable friend, his sister and his mother, travelling back to the West of Ireland for your funeral. Sitting in your home. Going into your bedroom and picking up your things. Yesterday this was your camera, these were your pyjama bottoms, that was your sketchbook. Now they feel strange to the touch. Relicts. And we, who never shut up, are silent. There are no words for our despair. This anger, confusion, grief that we carry, all ends with the fact that you are gone, and we didn’t save you.

Look, I’m sorry if there’s anything I could have done but didn’t. You do remember how I told you that I preferred chatting to kids than adults, right? That kids were more interesting and didn’t judge me the way grown-ups so often did. You were five when we made friends, and by barely nine or ten we were having our chats about god, gays, politics and chocolate. You were a clever kid with the dry wit of an adult, but you were still a kid, and even if I was raging when I caught you gliding down the stairs in a plastic laundry basket, I loved how brave you were. Always. Everything.
Remember the Lego, the Bionicles, the Forts, the Pirate Ships? Cinema visits and the time you kids got the bus into town on your own and came back so late that I almost had the police out? I assumed that all of that was a preparation for decades of adulthood.
And then the pre-teen years of  Vans, Canterbury pants and Game Consoles. You were brilliant. When the real teenage years hit, you were level gazillion at any game you wanted to be. School was a doddle and you could crack codes so well that when the legal department of some American gaming corporation called your home to track down Pakka al Sharu, your mother politely explained that this was the fake ID of a 14 year old boy.
But something happened along the way. Why will I never get to work for you? I agonize over what killed you. Were you too sensitive? Was it society with a heap of expectations that you didn’t want to live up to? Was it because of us liberal parents allowing our kids to think for themselves?
And that medication they gave you. Did it really work? Did your hormones attack your sense of reasoning so badly that you couldn’t see beyond that dark place you had come to? You had your issues; maybe they overwhelmed you, and blinded you to how much you were loved and admired. If only I could have seen it coming. If only, if only.

But understanding it won’t bring you back. Believe me please that I’m not mad with you. Not anymore. Just heartbroken.
 I think about all the fun we had when you guys were kids, and try to accept that all those years of you coming in and out of our house, the shared driving to school, the kids parties, the sleepovers, playground politics and books and games so carefully chosen to help you kids think and learn new skills, that all of it was not about you preparing to be an adult at all, in fact that was it: those were the days of your life.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes one child raises the whole village, teaching it that this world, the way it is now, cannot save everyone.
If I could go back in time, there is only one thing I would ever want to change. I would slap you alive again and convince you not to jump off that bridge, insist that you give life a chance, believe me that in order to love life you must despise it sometimes. Be that nerd who we all end up working for. 

But that’s not going to happen. So, I guess I’ll do my crying in private and write you sometimes.

Goodbye little friend, I’ll see you another time.


Tiernan Zephaniah Archer.
17.10.1997 - 28.04.2016
R.I.P.