On Dec. 11, 2012, my life changed forever. My family and I became unfortunate members of the worst club in the world: survivors of suicide.
Our beautiful, happy son Andy shot himself that terrible day. Nothing can ever prepare you for a tragedy like this. Nor can anyone really help you through it. It is a lonely, personal road that you must journey alone. That’s not to say there isn’t some degree of comfort from friends and family. But ultimately, you must process this event by yourself.
Andy was one of the most well-adjusted 16-year-olds I have ever known.
He was our fourth child in a marriage that had spanned 33 years of life’s trials and tribulations. Not only were my husband and I seasoned in the parenting category, but also in age. I was 36 and he was 46 when Andy came along. So we had lots of experience at this parenting
thing. Raising Andy was easy. He was loving, congenial, good at school and very active in sports. It became clear to us early on that he had an unusual talent as a baseball player. Particularly as a left-handed pitcher. Having enough energy to follow him along this journey was our biggest challenge. There were games scheduled for nearly most of the week. By the time he got to high school, universities and professional baseball teams were already scouting him.
Andy’s dream was to become a professional baseball player, and it appeared to be within reach.
The October before he passed, he was at a tournament where there were scouts from universities and professional teams. When it came time for Andy to do his thing, they were all lined up behind the backstop with their radar guns. It looked like something out of a movie! Andy pitched the best he had all season, with strikeout after strikeout. He came bounding off of the mound with such a smile! There’s nothing better for a parent than to see that joy in their child. Everything appeared to be great.
Two months before that amazing tournament, however, things began to go astray.
I can see this in retrospect, but back then, I had no idea the devastation the choices we made would cause. Andy had started to see a dermatologist just a few months before the tournament. The doctor prescribed
a generic form of Accutane and we were asked to sign a waiver. Which said (in a small section of the pamphlet) that suicide and depression
were a possible risk factor of this drug
. The doctor told us that Andy was well adjusted and happy. That he didn’t appear to have any signs that this might be any concern for us. So I signed it. Within a month, Andy’s grades plummeted and he would get lost driving to places he knew. I didn’t think much about it as he was very busy with baseball and distracted
with making decisions about his future.
He wasn’t the first teenager to have trouble with grades or lack of focus. I met with his counselor and teachers so that we could help him together, but unfortunately, I didn’t get the support I was asking for. I finally demanded help days before Andy shot himself. But by then, the damage was done and it was too late.
A very small percentage of people that take Accutane
experience the inability to focus and think clearly. Andy couldn’t concentrate in school. Which was having a terrible effect on his grades. He had never struggled with school before and he was beyond frustrated. The inability to focus was also causing him to get lost while driving
So on that fateful day Andy left school after second hour and, in one impulsive, unclear moment, he took his life.
That night is such a vivid memory for me. Especially seeing the faces of the kids and their parents who showed up to try to reconcile this unbelievable act. The minute I saw Andy’sfriends, I knew that I held their lives in my hand. They were in shock, tears streaming down their faces, hopelessness in their eyes. They were looking at me for instruction on how to survive themselves. That moment saved my life! I didn’t know how at that time, nor did I really make a conscious
decision. It just happened. My faith
took over where I couldn’t.
Thankfully, my faith was deep-seated and grounded, and I knew that I could fall apart in the arms of grace. The next day, Andy’s friends came over and stayed for the next week or so. They went through his drawers and clothes, and touched everything of his that they could. They slept, ate and cried in our home until the memorial service. In the days and months after, they still came over and spent the night, sharing their lives with each other, and my husband and me. Today, my family and I are focused on how to protect and nurture the many kids who’s lives had been forever changed that day. This gave us our purpose to live on. When something this devastating happens in your life, you really only have two choices.
You can let it destroy you or you can find a reason to move forward.
If we hadn’t moved forward, then Andy’s life would have ended that day. I can now see him in the future of all of his friends as they continue their journey. They take a piece of him with them wherever they go.