Josh was born on January 16, 1992. The youngest of four, he had an easy-going and good-natured disposition. He was always our “quiet” child but would often break out with a random comment or well-timed joke. At school, he made friends easily because he had a kind soul and fun spirit, and he treated everyone with respect and generosity.
Josh was a natural athlete. He played youth and high school football and lacrosse. He was fierce on the field, yet laid back everywhere else – “chill” was how friends always described him.
Then tragedy struck.
Josh had a rough time the last 18 months of his life, swinging from highs to lows. Initially, he got caught with marijuana at Langley High School, leading to a transfer to South Lakes High School. The move was traumatic, but Josh was able to make the best of it and became a star linebacker on the Seahawks football team, easily surrounding himself with a new group of friends and a sweet girlfriend. His life was looking up. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
Being a teenage boy, however, the link between action and consequence is intermittent, at best. In the days right before his death, Josh made another admittedly poor decision and was again caught with marijuana on school grounds. This time, the consequences were severe – he was probably looking at being expelled completely from the “traditional” school system. He was devastated and ashamed.
Outwardly, he seemed to be coping reasonably well. But his psyche was more fragile than anyone would know. Keeping all his thoughts and feelings inside, the situation became too much to bear. No one, not his parents, siblings, friends, girlfriend or professional counselor, knew the extent of his feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Tragically, he was either too inhibited to seek help or did not know where to seek it from. And on March 18, 2009, the night before a second disciplinary school hearing would reveal his fate, Josh made the irrevocable, fatal, heartbreakingly final decision to end his life.
A grief inexpressible over a loss unendurable
– Charlotte Bronte
What if he had received instructions in school on the warning signs of suicide? What if he was aware of the fact that this wasn’t the end of the world, and thinking so was more likely due to his still-developing teen brain that only sees a very narrow perspective? What if he didn’t feel the stigma of the labels attached to someone who admits needing help? Would he have reached out? Would he still be alive? We will never know. But we will do all we can to help this from happening to any other teen and any other family.