My daughter was one of what we called the six musketeers. Six teens who supported each other together while traveling through the world of hormones and beginning teen years. Jena and Josh, Brianne and Kyle, Darienne and Devon. The car ride home after school each day was full of laughter and events of the day, plans for the evening or the weekend.
I received a call from my daughter from school, January 29th, 2002, less than an hour after the first bell. In between sobs, she asked for me to come get her immediately, one of the kids had died. She could not form the words to say more. Needless to say, I flew to the school. Get the heck out of my way.
The teacher's lounge was full of children I knew well, children who lived at our house on the weekends, children whose lives I had known for many a year, children who considered me to be their "other mother." I tried to count heads, I tried to digest the sea of girls running to me, the boys standing apart, nervous and quiet, the tears, the hysteria, the adult with helplessness on their faces. I simply didn't have enough arms to touch each of the children desperately snuggled against me. Time was suspended, ethereal. I saw Kyle, Josh, Erica, Camilia, Kimberly, Rebecca, who is missing? Amberly, Vanessa, Sarah, Kristine, Christine, Jennifer, Sekura. Who was missing? Devon. It was Devon. God, it was Devon. (2004 note: I still canna read this without crying)
The school had counselors available immediately, and while we had all talked in the lounge before leaving, I felt that their stance was not one that would encourage acceptance. One of the police had spoken of the fact that Devon had killed himself within the hearing of the children while others would firmly state they did not know what happened, knowing full well what did. The children were getting mixed stories and the some of the counselors quietly advised not informing the children of what had actually occurred until a later time. And what did they expect of the children until "later"?
The school, understandably, would not permit me to take all the girls with me, despite their pleading and assurance their parents would agree. I was allowed to take Jena, Bri and Dari. One by one, Kyle, Josh, Vanessa, their parents picked them up from the school and dropped them off at our house where the children gathered, held each other, cried, sobbed, sat silently. Parents remained quiet, paced, we made coffee and talked out of the hearing of the children.
That afternoon, my heart was as heavy as I can ever remember. The children were gently told what had really happened. We talked for hours, the whys, the wherefores, the whats, the what ifs. They were held, stroked, cuddled, let to cry, watched, loved, hugged, rocked. The local church that Devon and Kyle attended sent their pastor to talk to the children. That evening the church bus picked up every one of them for a service, and took every one of them home, several spending the night with us. I have such wonder and admiration and eternal thanks for the help, understanding and support that the church and the parents of these children demonstrated.
Three of the musketeers took the responsibility that they could have prevented Devon from hanging himself from his bunkbed the previous night. Devon left no note, left no indication of why he did what he did. He left his mother and his family unable to understand why he would have hurt so badly without any one being aware, of what could have been so unsurmountable that suicide had been his only option. He had skipped school the day before with Josh and they had been caught, he had called Dari just before he left but she wasn't home to take the call. He had confided to Kyle that he tried to kill himself but made Kyle swear not to reveal this to anyone. Kyle did what all loyal friends would do. He swore not to tell. All three children were under suicide watch for quite a long, long time. The funeral was possibly the most heart wrenching experience I have ever lived through.
A page had been set up for Devon Eugene Cole on the web at www.legacy.com. Letter after letter appeared, every thought imaginable expressed. Thanks to the school, the page will remain for all time. At graduation, letters appear, telling Devon they made it even though they thought they never would. They knew he had been there, too. On his birthday the children write to him and his family. At Christmas, letters about Devon and angels are posted. (2004 note: the children, family and friends still post letters to Devon)
That is the story, that is what happened. What is so.
Last night, January 28th, 2003, the three girls were together. Candles were lit for Devon, prayers were said and tears flowed. Jena held the stuffed duck that Devon had won for her at the movies. A picture of Devon with angel wings floats on my daughter's computer as a screen saver.
It has been a long, long year. Devon's death followed the murder of two children at their school by a rampant stranger who pitchforked them to their living room wall and destroyed a family, a neighborhood and a community in one crisp morning. Later the same year, our vet came home to find all four of her beloved children brutally murdered by her ex husband. Another teen kills himself. A tragic car race took several young lives needlessly. The girls own "funeral clothes." It takes so much faith to keep going some mornings, let alone to guide or know what to say to my daughter.
All this tragedy has struck me as one of their largest lessons and trials, and they encountered it earlier than most. At a tender age they had to deal with overcoming the need to know the "why" to something that will never be answered. They had to decide how they felt about where Devon was if they didn't already have an opinion, if there as a God, a "maker" and a heaven. They had to accept his departure and learn how to "buck up" at the occasions when they would have naturally turned to include Devon. They learned how to help each other through the moments that triggered their loss. They know there is a state of mind that includes irrational acts, illogical acts, and that this state is so dismal that any consideration of others is simply not an aspect at the time. They learned, first hand, what suicide means to those left behind. They learned what their parents' life would be like if they felt the urge to do as Devon had done. They learned death. I pray with all my soul they have learned suicide is not an answer. They moved on to high school, with and without Devon. They will keep moving on. The children are recovering. One day at a time.
Devon's page can be found HERE
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