September was Suicide Awareness Month – but that awareness went unnoticed to one young man, my husband’s son, Nathan. Life changes can become a stacking stone of fear, misunderstandings and conflict for someone. The changing in life style from a child to an adult can leave a staggering effect. Add to it possible health issues, job changes, future college classes, and for some this becomes the recipe for disaster. Afraid of being misunderstood, that person may start holding these fears back from others in an attempt to continue with their “I’m okay” façade they normally carry. But suicide is not the answer…it only takes away the promise of tomorrow, future companionship, the last hug, or trips to build memories from. It is like the boulder that is dropped into the center of a lake, the rock drops into the water, but the ripple it creates goes out for a long way…those ripples are the lives left behind.
So little was know of the many lives Nathan touched – not until the tide changed and a tear fell…followed by millions more – suicide takes many victims, leaving a path of distraction in its wake. My stepson turned nineteen only a few weeks ago. A few months earlier, we celebrated his graduation from high school…today we grieve his death. We can only lean on God for comfort, because even though we want answers, there are none. Nathan kept his emotional struggles locked deep inside him; no one had any idea of the turmoil he carried. His focus was not on himself, but on others…choosing to not burden anyone with even a glimmer of darkness that had a grip on him. Now as we all gather at Nathan’s home, where only a few months earlier we celebrated with laughter, silly stories, food and gifts…today the house is filled with family and friends, along with many teenagers who come bearing tears, matching ours one for one. Nate’s friends bring no answers, none at all; their shock is evident in their tears, and questions. Nathan spoke with his dad earlier that day, telling him of the great fun he was having, then talking more about the trip he and his dad planned for December, a trip that will never take place now. Instead, that trip was altered because Nathan’s burdens filled him with a despair he could no longer take, and he made the decision to end his life, in his car, overlooking a beautiful rolling hill ridge, alone, in the wee hours of Saturday morning, while his family, friends, co-workers, and other acquaintances, slumbered the hours away.
Nathan had ADHD, but he chose not to take medicine, the reason is irrelevant today, but that disorder causes thoughts to go unfocused, thoughts that need medication to get a clear understanding of the tasks at hand. Thoughts tackling each other so quickly it’s like short-circuiting the ability to manage the spinning cycle. It can cause frustration in the struggles to get tasks done, overwhelming it’s victims – this is the only answer we have to gain any ground as to what was plaguing Nathan…to help us understand how a dark blanket can weigh one person down in hopelessness enough to have this end result, and yet the same blanket of doom is lifted off another when the sunshine warms the corners of that darkness giving hope to the person hidden beneath? There were no signs with Nathan, no glimpse of this dark blanket waiting on the sidelines to take over his world.
The expression used many times to describe Nathan was “he ran life at full throttle”…that “his smile was infectious”, “his jokes funny”; “he was goofy”, “he was always happy”…this was the Nathan we know and love. Everyone in Nathan’s life was touched by him in one way or another, as we hear stories of how fun, happy, goofy he was, we also heard stories of how he always went out of his way to help someone in need, how he lifted a helping hand when someone was down and out, needed help with a project, or how he protected classmates who were picked on, how he walked one classmate from room to room to keep her safe from bullies. How he was by a friend’s side every step of the way during a four-year struggle with cancer, fixing dinners, making everyone laugh during his friend’s chemo treatments. How a few weeks ago, Nathan and his best friend partnered with Children’s Center of Medina to have a 5K Run against human trafficking. Nathan was passionate to end this atrocity. This walk will now be renamed “Nathan Vermote’s Run To Freedom”. We never knew the impact he had on their lives, because Nathan was a humble, selfless person that did none of these things to gain a pat on the back, or a “good job, son”. He was a hero to so many…a fun, lovable hero. That was our Nathan…and we are left speechless. No words can describe the loss of a child. The helplessness that follows will last indefinitely, because life has been altered forever. Everyone will once again learn to smile, laugh, and go about their day, but the unanswered questions will rumble around in the back of our minds…what did we miss. And as those thoughts creep into our minds, we will need to give them to God, for only He and Nathan know why, and the reasons will not bring him back.
Now we are left with only memories, at times filled with quiet tears, other times filled with wails of sorrow. Memories fill our hearts…mine of the summers he spent with his dad and me in Colorado, or our time spent together in Michigan on our river property, or in Nathan’s home town of Brunswick, Ohio; where he showed us his rock climbing skills – but my most joyful memory will always be how his face light up every time he looked at his dad, helped him with a project, or as I watched the intensity that filled his eyes as he listened to his dad teach him survival skills during our camping trips. All of us that know and love Nate will continue to fill our minds with memories…tucking them safely in our hearts to honor a young man who loved many and was loved by even more. So evident in the car rally and fundraiser put on by his friends to help pay for funeral expenses. That night we heard even more stories…one young lady cried as she told us he stopped her from suicide more than once. His best friend told us how every Sunday before church he took garbage bags and cleaned the roads littered from a week worth of trash scattered by people with little respect for their city streets. The stories continued even through his memorial service at Pathway Church, where about 600 friends and family gathered together to pay their respect and love to Nathan. The stories we heard have given all of us hope in the generation we have been interacting with for over a week now. Nathan and all of his friends live a drug and alcohol free lifestyle – one that is filled with motor cross, hot rods, rock climbing, and as we recently learned, Parkour…(which is scaling buildings…yikes)…along with many other wholesome activities. Many of them went to church with Nathan, and spent Thursday evenings in bible study with him. Nathan was a Christian, young and seeking, and found pure comfort in reading scripture, learning about life…things not taught in a textbook, because his focus was on others, not on himself, a trait gained from his dad, and a gift he was blessed with by God, Our Father.
I hope by writing this blog, that others who are in this pain will understand there is hope. When people asked Nathan why he did acts of kindness, he would humbly state his motto… “So others can live”. He wanted others to “know hope”, as he took those in despair and gave them reasons to go on. We wish he could have found that hope himself, but for him it was always about others and he leaves a legacy of hope for others behind. To Nathan, life was about loving others…his friends, sad and devastated, will continue to do Nathan’s work as best they can, and they will love each other through this tragedy.
If you know someone who is the quiet type about what’s going on in his or her life…be suspicious, try and teach them to share their story. If others you know are willing to share their story…listen, and if you feel any concern, get advice, get help. If you are struggling with anything, please talk to someone, life holds hard times, but they are temporary…they can be helped with the love and support of others.
We couldn’t save Nathan’s life, but we don’t want his death to be meaningless, please reach out and help your friends, or maybe yourself, understand there are ways to fix a temporary situation.
Suicide…it takes many victims.
In Loving Memory of Nathan “Nate” Vermote