I haven't been, since November. That's when I learned that a Trinity alumnus named Chris jumped to his death in Mexico. His parents broke it to me. I didn't remember Chris as a student in the mid-1990's. I met him, officially, in the spring of 2011. That's when he showed up on campus a bit down on his luck. Members of the Student Affairs division and some other kind souls on staff reached out to him and tried to help.
Chris and I became friends. He had issues, but he was kind, funny, indignant, and easy to talk to. Especially about sports. And he didn't want to show up on my blog some day. So I will say little else, except that we made a bet and it turns out we both won - technically. Instead of cashing in on my lunch, I cashed in in a different way. His parents made two generous donations for me to disburse to other alumni who might one day show up to campus needing help. They are gracious, even in their grief.
When a first-year student, Sheena, took a similar path last month I wasn't ready, again. I didn't know her as a student either. Her actions were just as jarring, though. They shook the whole campus community. Like Chris, she has a grief-stricken and gracious family. They probably don't want her to be on my blog any more than Chris wanted to be. So I will say little else.
Reverend Nickle asked me how I was handling Sheena's death. He knows my mom killed herself when I was a college student. That event defined me for some time. I talk about it freely now because I have a soft spot for college students who lose a parent. But that was a LONG time ago for me (over 30 years). The deaths of Chris and Sheena didn't bring my parental past back up as Rev kindly worried. It did bring up what happened to the lovely Melisse Buland in 2006. And this year has been more of the same.
I'm sad. And I guess I'm never ready when we lose a member of the Trinity family.
We all want to tie things up neatly somehow. "Look out for one another..." "Get help for yourself..." "Get help for others..." "Pay attention to signs..." This community does all that. And it is really difficult to keep stats on the lives saved. I suspect - thanks to the care extended by faculty, staff, students, and parents - that the number of students helped would be incredibly high. But those numbers we speculate on are over-shadowed by the concrete number of losses. There is no ambiguity with those. With Chris and Sheena, they were determined, if not impulsive. And that is a dangerous combination.
I vacillate, honestly, about how I feel about suicide. In some ways, one has to feel such despair, such pain, and such hopelessness, that suicide seems like the ONLY option. How can any of us judge. On the other hand... Why not give the rest of us a chance to help? Why not wait a day? Because lost in their own turmoil is one certainty: When others fall, we fall with them.
In the end, we are left to wonder - because we have lots of unanswered questions. We don't know - with our Melisse's, Chris's, and our Sheena's - if we could have made more of a difference. We wonder if sometimes pain plus determination equals utter helplessness. In these few cases, perhaps there was nothing we could have done. Maybe that makes it easier to bear. Or worse, maybe harder.