A number of years ago, the boy who sat next to my child in the high school band committed suicide. I was overwhelmed by his death, even though neither my child nor I knew much about this poor kid. All I could find out was that he was quiet, white and had brown hair. I had a mental image of him, but I wanted to know more.
Obsessed with trying to understand who he was and how this could have happened, every day after school I asked for news or details about his life. He was smart. He was quiet. That was about it.
I thought about him and wondered what could have driven him to take his life, outdoors, on a bitterly cold night. I worried that maybe other troubled teenagers at the school might decide to follow suit. After all, what teen isn't troubled? My kid seemed fine, but this boy probably did too. Plans were announced for a Buddhist memorial service in Riverdale in the Bronx and I decided to go.
There was snow and ice on the sidewalks and streets and it took longer to get there than I'd expected. I arrived late to a packed room filled with the sound of chanting. There might have been some sort of bells jangling too. It was obvious who the parents were and I hung back out of respect for their grief and my lack of connection.
An enlarged photograph of the boy, with a beautiful and delicate rope of flowers draped over it, was in the front of the room. To my shock, the picture of the boy was identical to the mental image I had of him, with one small difference. In my mental image, he was present and free. In the photograph, he seemed to be withdrawn and held in, almost as if he was behind a thick piece of plexiglass.
I've never experienced anything like this before or since but it gives me hope. First of all, it's proof to me that death is not the end. And secondly, we're obviously connected to each other in unimagined ways and have powers which are generally untapped.