Suicide: Superman is Dead.

With the recent suicide of Mindy McCreedy, the fact that this is would have been our shared birthday month, AND the fact that since starting this blog I do not think I have written anything about him… it’s time.

The irony began with a funny little summer camp that really wasn’t funny at all… it was called SuperCamp. It was created for parents who wanted to shove their kids somewhere and force feed them knowledge to help them study better and excel in school. The entire camp was infused with study skills, memorization tools and oh yeah intense trust exercises.  Super fun.  

I was a sucker for the emo kids (even though that wasn’t a true term back then). My heart identified with them. I struggled with depression, self worth, anxiety. I came from a broken home. I was dysfunctional in so many ways and shared many of the feelings they expressed outwardly.  SO when Chris stood up one night during the camp and read a dark poem about his struggle with depression and attempt at suicide I immediately felt drawn to him. He had done what I never had the courage to do… and survived it. It fascinated me and made my heart break for him all at the same time.

I introduced myself to him and suddenly the rest of the camp became a blur. None of the classes were memorable to me from then on out.  The hand-written rainbow colored notes (remember when you would take five colored pens and alternate colors every letter… it would take hours just to say HI my name is… but gosh darn it, it sure was pretty!) and the late night conversations sitting on the grass outside the dorm staring at the stars… those were memorable. The tears we shared, when at the time no one had seen me cry except i think maybe my best friend…and I even doubt that.  The feelings and stories we shared touched me in a way no one else could.

I remember sitting on the grass during a break between ‘classes’ one of the last days of camp and he reached over and wrote on my hand, “I love you.” My heart jumped into my throat and felt like it burst into a million pieces. He held my hand and we cried. No one had loved me before, no one had said they loved me and truly meant it the way he did.  He didn’t have to love me.  He knew the broken pieces of me and loved me despite them.  I had never said “I love you” to anyone, and for those of you who know me now… I still don’t.  I just looked at him and cried, I couldn’t say it.

Now, don’t get me wrong we were young emotionally overloaded pre-teens and probably had no clue what real love was… but this moment has shaped and molded me for who I am today.  It taught me that despite everything I had been through, despite being treated like a piece of crap by those who should love me… someone could still love me despite it all. Getting to a place where I felt like I deserved that love came years later.

His name was Chris Kent. Not only was it SuperCamp but we had our own resident Superman. I called him that and he would blush every time.  I knew he disagreed, but it took so much courage to stand up before a group of peers and confess his deepest darkest thoughts, his fears, his failures… he may not rescue damsels in distress and fly like the ‘real’ Superman, but he was pretty super to me.

My heart broke for him when the last day of camp he found out his grandmother had died and instead of heading home he was catching a plane to go to a funeral. I worried for him and tried to be strong for him. The last few hours of camp we did some kind of trust/bonding exercise yet again, but all I remember is being locked arm in arm with the group of our peers and staring right into his eyes standing across from me in the ‘trust circle’.  We didn’t even have to say anything and I knew he felt what I felt. I knew he was scared, I knew he was hurting so deeply inside.

I don’t remember the last speeches and goodbyes but I remember the way his body shook when we hugged goodbye. He whispered in my ear promises to write and keep in touch and then he said it, “I love you.” My knees shook and I cried even more. The words were music to my ears, music that made me cry, but music non-the-less. My family was waiting for me in the corner of the room, waiting and watching as everyone said their goodbyes.  I hugged him so tight and never wanted to let him go. The counselors said something, people were shuffling out of the room… it was time to say goodbye, it was time to let him go. I kissed him on the cheek and gathered the courage from somewhere inside to whisper back, “I love you.” I let go and hurried out of the room. I couldn’t bring myself to look back.

He is the only other boy I have said “I love you” to besides my Husband. I can count the number of people I have said it to on my hands.

This story is important because I need you to understand the impact Chris made on my life. I feel like his friendship opened up a door that led me to a place where I could love and be loved.  I devote so much of my life to loving and hope that that is how others perceive me as well. I may not say the words, but hope that I live them.  The word agape was my first tattoo  on my 18th birthday because I knew that I wanted to make a statement that loving unconditionally was my purpose in life, what people would remember me by. Chris helped me learn that.

We spoke on the phone regularly for awhile after camp.  We exchanged many letters and made elaborate plans of getting together again one day but never did.  I would get phone calls when he was sad and struggling or when he had learned a new song on the guitar and wanted to play it for me. He sent me letters packed with pictures and drawings he had made.  He had taken up the nickname Superman and flew with it.  He wore the emblem everywhere and drew the Superman symbol on everything. He felt empowered by it and proud of it. He showed me his trophies he had earned in his Karate training and told me of a new girlfriend that made him happy.  We exchanged a phone call and card on our birthday(his was the day before mine on a non leap year: February 27th/28th) We shared our lives with one another and then those lives got busy and the letters and phone calls became less and less.

I met Eric and on May 1st 2001 we began dating and I fell madly in love with him, despite my confessions early on of not even wanting a boyfriend at the time. I remember wanting to tell him I loved him, but refusing to say it first. I remember wanting to write Chris and tell him all about Eric and thinking they would really get along nicely together.  I wanted him to be happy for me the way I was happy for him…He was like my loving big brother and I wanted him to approve of this man I was falling in love with.  But I never got around to it… it was too late.  One night we were getting ready to go out to the movies on a group date with friends and I got a phone call.

Let me also explain that at this time in my life I had moved OUT of my home with my family and bounced from my best friends house to Eric’s parents house.  This phone call had gone through all these channels to eventually find me at the Ranaldi household two minutes before walking out the door.

It was Chris’s aunt calling to tell me that he had died in a horrible car accident. I tried asking questions but she broke down into tears and hung up. I couldn’t believe it.  My heart dropped to the floor and felt like it shattered into a million pieces.

Superman was dead.

I couldn’t believe he had fought his depression and was winning! He was happy, he was doing great! All to end up accidentally dying in a car accident?? I had more questions than I did answers and it was not making sense. After a little research I was able to contact his mother via email who told me the truth: It was not an accident.

Chris had been planning his final suicide attempt for months.  He had met individually with family members and told each and every one of them he loved them and thanked them in his own way, but because he did it separately no one knew.  He withdrew from his friends or took up binge drinking and pushed them all away.  He spent a lot of time staying up late at night getting drunk and driving his little VW Bug through the windy roads up and down the mountain by his apartment. His mother knew how unsafe he was and tried reaching out to him but he pushed her away.  He pushed everyone away. He had stopped writing to me and calling me and I was so busy falling in love, I hadn’t noticed.

She told me how one night she just couldn’t sleep and she hand’t heard from Chris so she called him and he was drunk and crying and upset. She tried to tell him to come home and talk with her and that they would figure things out. He refused.  She couldn’t sleep and was physically ill by morning. She called in sick to work and as she was folding laundry she turned the news on to see live coverage of a horrible car accident on the hwy down the mountain. She fell to the floor and called her husband; it was Chris.

He had planned it down to the T. He went out late, so late he knew no other cars would be on the road except semi trucks and big rigs… opposing vehicles he knew would crush his little bug in a head on collision.  He rounded a corner and crossed the lanes of traffic head on to a large semi truck that barely even jolted with the impact.  Chris was dead.

She also told me that when they went through his apartment he had written a note to his friends… he listed each and every one of them (about ten) that he wished to be contacted by his family upon his passing.  He posted a picture of each of these friends next to their contact information on the back of his letter.  She attached a photo in her email, and there I was in the middle of the page.  A crumpled old wallet sized school picture I had given him in one of our letters to each other. And his hand writing next to it saying, “I love you.”

I realize that no amount of love, communication or friendship could have saved his life. Depression and anxiety will eat you alive and it truly is an exhausting battle. It was such an eerie feeling to see my name on someone’s suicide note. I never thought that would ever happen. For awhile I felt responsible, I wondered what I could have done differently… maybe if we had kept more in touch that year. But instead I’ve learned to take this lesson of love and spread it unconditionally. Love may not cure the worlds affliction with suicide, but it might make an impact in someone’s life.

Superman may have lost his battle with suicide but his ability to love so deeply and touch my life continuously since has shown me how true love can bring healing, courage, and comfort.  If I can’t fix the world’s problems I can at least do this.

In LOVING memory of

Christopher Lee Kent 02/27/83 – 08/08/01

chris_tricia5

http://www.suicideispreventable.org

Reach out to someone and Love them today.

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