At sixteen you’re supposed to be thinking about driving. But his mind was on other things. He was suffering from a medical condition all through this year in High School known as a pilonidal cyst. This caused significant pain when sitting, and even though it had been lanced several times by a doctor, it finally required surgery and a nearly week-long hospital stay during the month of October. This could have been bearable had it not been for the tension within his household. His father had left the family and gone to live elsewhere. There were times when his father visited and verbal arguments ensued between his parents. This caused him to lose interest in his studies and to withdraw from normal teenage activities.
An argument had happened a day or two before Halloween. It wasn’t pleasant, but the arguing was becoming normal and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But he went to bed on Halloween night and thought to pray for the people who might be out participating in who knows what kind of meanness. It felt good to pray, so he did. He thought about the new room where he was living, in this new house that had seemed to cause the family to come apart. He thought about the windows over his bed, the brown carpet, the design in the ceiling that made the room look complete. He thought about his dog, a terrier mix, and he fell slowly into slumber.
With a suddenness that startled him awake, the doorbell rang. He glanced sleepily at the clock: 1:30 a.m. He didn’t know whether to get up or hide. This was a terrible time for visitors. He froze in the bed as he heard his mother open the door. A gruff-sounding voice tried to be friendly as he asked if he had the right house. The voice was official-sounding, calm, but urgent. He could make out the main words: “an accident” . . . “a shot” . . . “apparently self-inflicted” . . . “didn’t make it.” A groan, a long “nooooo” and then silence. Sounds of sobbing punctuated the silence like a drum beat.
Realization slowly set in. His father had gone out drinking that night, and wound up at the home of his mistress. Finding her with another man, he felt his life caving in on himself. He went into a fit of rage and found his pistol, sat on her front steps and fired a bullet into his own brain. A mid-life crisis came to full and final halt.
Not long after this bit of news came to the house, a stream of visitors began showing up. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, church members. Many of them brought food. The kitchen was bulging with dishes filled with tangible love. His favorite uncle tried to comfort him with promises to find out what happened, to “be there,” to pray for him.
Services happened and soon he was standing by a graveside holding his pillow for protection of his surgical area. He stared at the casket and didn’t hear a thing the minister was saying. He only knew that life was going to be different. He didn’t know exactly how. Perhaps the arguing was now no longer going to be present in his home. Perhaps he would be able to know joy again.