“Derek Morris was one of my brief crushes during my early school days. We weren’t particularly close, but we were in band together in junior high, so we’d known each other for a few years. He played the tuba, which meant that he was right in front of me since I was on the drum line in the very back of the formation. I left my instrument behind and joined the drill team after middle school, but he went on to marching band. The squad always performed with the band at sporting events and school functions. They always marched ahead of us, tubas in the back, and since I was one of the shorter girls on the team, I was in front. So, there we were again, nearby to each other and chatting each other up. He was always such a chipper guy.
When we waved and said hello as we crossed paths on campus, he always flashed me a big, movie star smile. It was as if he’d stolen a piece of the sun and kept it inside himself, but not hidden. It was there for everyone to see, every time he looked someone’s way. He had the kind of smile that could make a person feel better, even on an especially crappy day. And he never missed the chance to shine a light on someone’s world. I never heard him say an unkind word to or about anyone. I thought he was such a sweet soul, as did most people who knew him.
He committed suicide at the start of our sophomore year.”
Ten years later, and I still think about this boy. This experience didn’t keep me from going down my own path of darkness, but it postponed it for a while. And as I made my way back, it saved me again because I was reminded of the looks on his family’s face, the way the student body wept for him, the way I wept for him, and how his killing himself changed my thoughts and feelings on suicide, if only for a time. I still pay him respect for the seeming sacrifice. I pray that I’m not the only one who learned a great deal from one boy’s choice.
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