A boy committed suicide in front of me last month. I didn’t know him. I actually wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near him when it happened. I was supposed to be flying back from Bolivia that day, but I’d changed my flight two days before so I could come home early.
Within 24 hours of my arrival, I was driving behind a big rig on the freeway when it braked suddenly. Other cars around it stopped, too. After a moment, they drove off while the truck driver got out of his truck and jogged up the freeway. Figuring there had been a minor accident, I switched lanes to pass the truck and saw the boy lying in the middle of the freeway.
That’s an image I will never forget. A boy lying on his side, blood streaming from his head, completely alone.
I pulled my car over and got out. Although I have not lived a sheltered life, nothing has ever terrified me as much as the next ten minutes. I spent them crouched by the boy’s head, telling him over and over that I knew that he was in pain but that the ambulance would be there soon and then he’d feel better. The whole time I talked to him, he thrashed his head from side to side and moaned. His blood pooled at my feet and I knew he wasn’t really going to get better. He was going to die.
He died that night.
Later, I learned a few things about him. I learned his name and that he was 20 years old. I also learned he’d been in trouble with the law, that his funeral was held the day he was supposed to have his anklet removed, and that he loved to make people laugh. I found out that he coached children’s soccer and that he’d had a beautiful smile. I also learned he’d been thinking of killing himself for awhile before he threw himself in front of that truck.
Ironically, the more I’ve learned, the more questions I have. What drove this young man to such despair that he would end his life? Why was he in trouble with the law? What made him flash his beautiful smile? How many years did he play soccer? What were the witnesses thinking—the ones who drove off and left him to die? And why was I there? I wasn’t supposed to be—a freak impulse made me change my flight home. Was that coincidence? Was it fate?
I’ve never believed that all life is pre-destined, that there is a god sitting in the heavens, steering us along some great path. But I do believe that, for whatever reason, sometimes life drops you exactly where you need to be. I believe someone needed to be there for that young man and, as gruesome and frightening as it was for me, I will always be glad that he wasn’t alone at the end.
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