Apr 172012

Imagine, if you will, a youth – about 15-years-old.

Imagine this youth growing up in an area with other youth around the same age, supportive parents, a sibling a couple of years younger or older – maybe one of each.  Imagine this youth at five years old, kind of quiet and reserved in public; but, when at home, happy, engaged, with eyes that shine with the joy of being five, giggling at some inside joke with one sibling or the other.

Imagine at some point, at around fourteen years old, this youth started getting a bit more reserved a bit more quiet, started to share less and less with family members.  After a little bit of time, one of the youth’s parents asks the youth about it – asks about whether things are okay at school, if they are feeling okay, if anything has happened.  The parent reminds the youth of how much they are loved and that, should the youth need to talk about anything, to remember that the parent is there for them and loves them, no matter what.  

A couple of weeks later, the youth comes in to sit by the parent on the sofa, and starts crying.  Sobbing.  When the tears begin to subside, the youth says to the parent, “Were you serious?  When you told me that you love me…no matter what?”

“Yes,” the parent says, “there is nothing you can do that would make me stop loving you. I love you so much – no matter what.”

“Would you love me even if I told you that I think maybe I’m….gay?”  The youth stumbles over the last part of the sentence, sobbing as they talk.

“Yes, yes, and a thousand more yeses. I love you no matter what. Both of your parents love you so much, and we cherish the person you are, no matter who you are or who you love or how you dress or what you want your career to be.  We love you so much.”
As the youth keeps sobbing, the parent holds them and lets them cry.

For a while, the parent starts to see a side of the youth they thought had been gone – the youth is laughing again, happy, talkative and engaged. Excited about life.  They’ve come out to some of their close friends, and are relishing in being “out.”

About six months later, though, the youth starts to withdrawal again, to come in after school and spend hours in their room.  The parent tries to ask the youth about what’s going on, but the youth doesn’t want to talk about it.  After some prodding by the parent, the youth finally opens up and says that they’ve been “getting some flack” from some people at school.  Says some kids at school have been teasing them, calling them all sorts of names – telling the youth they are going to hell, that God doesn’t love them.

“Do you think that’s true?” The youth asks the parent. “Do you think that God doesn’t love me?”

“No, no, no – I know that’s not true. God loves you so so very much. I am so sorry that those kids are saying all they are saying, and that their words are so cruel. But – and don’t ever forget this – you are a beloved child of God – you are my beloved child, too, and I love you so much.”

The parent contacts the teachers and administrators of the youth.  The teachers bring in the kids who have been bullying the youth, sit them down, and talk to them.  But, the bullying doesn’t stop. The youth seems to be carrying it alright – as well as anyone could. They start talking about college, about being excited to get out of town and go somewhere “with other gay people.”

Imagine, then, that one afternoon the parent comes home from work to find the house eerily silent.  They put down their bags from work, walk through the house, call out the youth’s name, but hear nothing.  The parent starts to get a bit worried, calls out the youth’s name again. Silence. Heavy silence. The parent checks the youth’s bedroom, but doesn’t find the youth there – then the bathroom, then the backyard – getting anxious with every empty room, still hearing nothing from the youth.

Imagine the silence broken by the scream of the parent as they walk into the basement and find their child hanging from the beams of the ceiling with a garden hose around their neck. The body limp, the parent tries to lift the youth, and finally succeeds, pulling the youth down.  

Imagine the parent giving the youth CPR, trying in vain to to pump breath into the lifeless body of their child, who does not respond. Fifteen years old, and unable to deal with the weight of the world, unable to see a way out of it or around it.

Now imagine that this youth is your child.

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