A mother’s tale of courage and conviction after her gay son committed suicide
I think I have been through all the phases of grief, at least the ones that I know of any way. However, I don’t think I will ever forget the day I walked in on my Sam. At first I thought he had just overslept and was about to admonish him when I realized that there was some white foam on the mouth. Then came that period that I cannot quite remember because I was in complete and utter shock. People were talking. My husband was shouting and the paramedics came. They say that he was still alive, but I think my gut instinct told me that this was not going to be a happy ending. That period of my life was a series of tragic mishaps and revelations. I thought it would never end. Every layer of our lives was being opened and there were things about my son that I did not know.
Why, why why??? Why couldn’t Sam had confided in me. We had always been so close. Even Steve was a welcoming dad. His sister Rachel was fiercely protective. His grandma always had such pearls of wisdom. The sad truth is that he never confided in us. His secret was too big…or so he thought. I had known that Sam was gay almost as soon as he began to talk. I just knew it. Don’t ask me how, because I cannot quite explain it? There was something about the way he related to me and how we spoke that just told me he was gay. Ironically we had never had a gay person in the immediate family, at least not openly gay.
A Poignant Suicide Note of My Gay Son
When the neat suicide note was shown to me, I refused to read it. Sam (true to type) had written it in his neat hand with dates present. Steve would later read it to us in what was the nearest thing we could muster that was close to a wake. I could not get over the constant apologies from my son. He was telling us that he had cleaned the bathroom and had put a sheet on the bed just in case he lost control over his body. I was going crazy. The question ‘why” was like a possessive obsession that refused to let my conscious go. This sensitive and considerate boy was no more and for absolutely nothing.
The reasons he gave were just heart breaking. He felt that his life was no longer worth living since he was convinced he could never find love. He had tried to love his girlfriend but he just could not love her. He had tried the gay scene and been absolutely horrified by the aggressive sexuality. All these we were learning from that letter with a faint smell of his cologne. Then there was some anger: how dare he? How could he do this to me? I was here living a hell that never seemed to end. The pain seemed to gnash something out of my heart. I could not sleep or even lie down for that matter. When I walked, it was in a daze. Those days were the toughest of my life and I hope I never have to go through that again.
When I had done some calming down (a real struggle to be honest); I began to pick the pieces. I read the letter and tried to understand why my son had decided to end it at 17 years. It seemed inexplicable to me…even to this very day. We were a loving and supportive family. Perhaps my biggest regret was not telling him that I knew that I have a gay son and that I loved him with all my heart. Sam should never have felt alone or ever felt that he was embarrassing to anyone. You could not ask for a better, more thoughtful, more considerate, more fun child. In hindsight, it seems the humour was a mask for the torment that he was going through. Sam had never had any problems making friends. Indeed, one of his complaints in the note was that he was worried about having to tell everybody and then having to explain it all.
So much guilt but nobody to blame
If there was someone, anyone, that could be an object of my fury; I might have rested easier. The truth of the matter is that nobody was to blame. We thought we had given Sam the best start in life possible. When I realized that I have a gay son, I spoke to Steve. He did not believe me, saying that it was absolutely ridiculous that I could say a toddler was gay. I waited and revisited the issue when he was a teen. Steve said that I was probably right since he had never to our knowledge expressed any interest in any girl. But again, Sam had not expressed an interest in sex at all. He was otherwise egregious, athletic and popular. It is just that his personal life was always shrouded in mystery.
I really wish I had taken things in my own hands and spoken to him about his sexuality. We loved that boy so much. Him and Rachel were out world. Now it seems as if we are an incomplete family. I always walk around with a photo I took when he was 13. It is not a particularly great photo. He had just returned from a hockey game and was so tired, he just threw his sticks away and slumped gracelessly on the sofa. That photo just always tugged on my heart. This was my little boy, my champion, my world, my companion…the one who chipped in when I was getting bored with the housework. The one who never forgot a single birthday or mother’s day. The one who brought me presents that were so unique, so thoughtful; that I would spend months cooking up ways to say thank you.
Making sense and having a purpose
My Sam was gone and I was broken. I could not bring him back but I could prevent yet another teenage child dying alone, fearing that he would be judged for who he was. Where we grew up, bigotry was never an issue. I was a Massachusetts girl and we did not do that sort of thing. Ours was the time of liberation and experimentation. My dad was bordering on the Bohemian and my mum was a true spirit. Then I met my Steve, a man that fits me like a glove in every way imaginable. We raised our two kids to be confident and to always feel loved. It was shocking that our son felt that he had no way out but to take his own life. When the grief subsided a bit (it will never end); I decided to do something useful.
I started a support group for parents of LGBTIQ children in school. At the moment we have about 15 members but there are others who are supporting in an indirect way. Although Sam was not bullied, I just felt that there are many others who are not so lucky in some respects. So, we also tackle homophobic bullying. We started in schools but we want to take our campaigns further out on the streets. Recently I was shocked and rather frightened when a drug dealer came out to me. I just could not believe what I was hearing. He looked so hard and mean. It was hard to imagine that he was anything but straight macho. Anyway, I am learning lots of thing along the way. One of the most important lessons is not to judge any book by its cover.
Nobody should ever feel pressured about their sexuality
Sam will never come back (even though that is my ardent wish). I wish it had been me who had gone instead of him but Steve tells me that is just bad thinking. At the very least we know that he did not die in vain. We did not open a charity in his name because it would seem as if we were seeking glory for our dead son when he was good enough as he was. Instead we wanted to support kids who are struggling with their sexuality, regardless of their personal situation or circumstances. That is my new mission in life and I want to be the very best PTA mum in that respect.
Of course I do obsessively google about parents who have lost their kids to suicides but I am no longer as bitter as I once used to be. It is a testament to the love and support that I got from Steve that our marriage survived this crisis. Even the normally boisterous Rachel was at loss what to do. She just could not imagine that our Sam was with us moments before he took his own life. That is the mystery that we will all take to our graves. I know that up there he realizes that we always loved him and miss him so much.