Quite possibly the most traumatic thing that ever happened to me occurred on September 24, 1984. I was fourteen for about a month. That was the day my best friend, Jonathan David Wells, committed suicide. It was an event that still haunts me to this day. It probably will continue to do so till I go Home.
I still remember where I was when I found out. It was two days later on a Wedneday in world history class at Mackenzie Junior High. Everyday we had to find a news story in the newspaper and write a paragraph about it. I just happened to open to the obituaries. There his picture was and the details of the funeral, in black and white. I was shocked, just dumbfounded. I excused myself to the men’s room and cried for about a half an hour. The teacher became concerned and sent somebody to look for me.
He had shot himself in the head with a .38 revolver. He was found by his brother Steve.
On the way home I vomited on the school bus. Walking from the bus stop home I vomited again. When I reached home I told my mother and vomited again. She asked me if I wanted to go the funeral, but I vomited again. She should have taken me to a grief counselor or minister or something, but honestly I think she was stoned. I just went to my room and wanted to die.
When I went back to school (it always amazes me how the sun continues to rise, despite our personal tragedies) the counselor at school pulled me out of class They had heard about what had happened and wanted to make sure I wasn’t the next suicide (there had been two suicides in just a couple of days). I assured them I wasn’t.
But I needed help. My grades went into the toilet, going from an A/B student to straight Fs. I just didn’t care. I tried to hide this fact from my mother by forging her signature on my report cards. When she found out, she hit the roof (the only time I saw her angrier was when I told her I was learning Hebrew). I wound up going to summer school in 1985.
Now I was supposed to visit my father and his wife in Mississippi, but that had to be delayed for a bit because of summer school. I did just good enough to pass and continued to so the rest of my scholastic career. My father and I were not close and me and my stepmother disliked each other, but she was helping him with his alcoholism and the trauma of Vietnam, so I tolerated her. All of that was about to change.
They had heard about David (presumably from my mother) and offered their condolences. Since they were my only exposure to religion, I made the mistake of asking them if I would get to see David again in heaven. My stepmother said no, that all people who commit suicide go straight to hell. I guess she had never read the passages where Jesus had spoken on the question of death in Matthew 22:23-32; Mark 12:19-27; Luke 20:27-38. (God is not the god of the dead, but of the living).
I don’t honestly know if she had done this out of sheer ignorance or being the proverbial “mean wicked stepmother” and I won’t debate it. I do know (now) that Satan was using her as a puppet, to try to drive a wedge between me and God.
This was the beginning of a deep depression for me, where I nearly took my own life as I was dealing with his death and discovering I was SSA (gay) (it had been drilled into me that all gays burn in hell). I wouldn’t be delivered from this depression for about seven years.