I was a senior in High School when I lost Kyle. I was too young to cope, and he was too young to go. I had never lost anyone… Not an aunt, a grandparent, or a second cousin. No death, no funeral, no loss, had ever prepared me to lose Kyle.
I didn’t lose Kyle in a store at the mall while we tried on goofy hats. Kyle didn’t just run away, looking to be lost either. I lost Kyle because risk took him. From all of us. Too soon.
Losing Kyle was a rusty arrow shot through my heart; in one side, out the other, and then boomeranging back – for another shot through. It was the vilest twist of my gut, one that left me nauseous for months. But mostly, it was a violently, chaotic, scramble of my peace of mind.
Losing Kyle broke something of mine. It broke open a part of me that I hadn’t known existed. It released a hungry beast that fed off of depressive thoughts, disregarded hope, provoked dark philosophies, and sought after harmful consequences of my own.
I remember it all now like a vibrant nightmare. The kind you still cry about, even though so much time has past. What had begun as just another day in May didn’t end, just another day in May.
May 17th, 2012 was the worst day of my life.
It was after school, a Thursday, and something wasn’t right. Posts on Facebook were asking what had happened. Rumors developed through comments and someone mentioned Kyle. I thought maybe he had just gotten hurt. He loved motor vehicles… but something felt more serious than a simple injury. Something was very wrong.
I made the call, to a teacher who had led his auto-protégée Kyle, and I, through school board competitions and trips over the past two years, representing our school. At the time I had never known how important those memories would have been to savor… This teacher was not an average teacher, he was an automotive teacher who was tough as nails, but one of the kindest men I have ever known. He answered my call after the first ring, but I didn’t have to raise my hand to see if my suspicions were correct. He confirmed through lack of words, and lack of breaths he couldn’t grasp. “He’s gone.” “He’s gone.” “You need to be with someone right now.”
I don’t remember talking back. The tears came instant. I had never before known the feeling of knees literally weakening and collapsing beneath you. I fell, sobbing on the living-room floor. The fetal position was the only option for keeping myself from exploding. I was home alone, and I remember screaming.
The way my body shook made it seem impossible to dial for my mother, but my first instinct was for human contact. I was at my fathers, just a few streets over. She had no clue as to what I had tried to say over the phone, but she knew to come- and to come quick. I remember seeing her through the blinds at the door, but didn’t know how to pick myself up to walk over and unlock it. I couldn’t feel my legs, but somehow I made it. My hand switched the lock, and I collapsed as she held me and begged me to tell her what was wrong. Panic filled her face and I just stared at her. I couldn’t breathe, and nothing coming out of my mouth made sense. I felt drugged, out of control. Somehow I made out a string of words that told her all I knew. She carried me to the car, not letting me go during the short drive. Somehow my father knew too, driving to my mothers as quickly as he could. I must have called him, but it felt like I had blacked out, because I couldn’t remember the conversation I had just had with him.
My senses were dull; I was in a state of both nothing and everything at once. I remember lying in my mother’s bed, silently trying to breathe, calling my best friend. It felt as if my eyes were budging out of my head, but all I wanted to do was close them.
I felt like I needed to explode. I didn’t know what to do with my body. I had never felt so uncomfortable in my own skin. I needed to be with people who knew Kyle better – my parents didn’t understand, no matter how close they held me. My mother drove me to Kayla’s house and we sat for hours, intertwined on the couch. Our phones laid in our hands as we answered and made calls, trying to keep in touch with everyone else effected… but wanting so badly just to turn them off at the same time. We talked about him with our parents, we even laughed a bit – about the time he snuck through my window in grade 9. I had never told that story until then. We cried.
Our eyes were swollen by the time we woke up the next morning. It was Friday, and it was a school day. There had been a lot of talk and texting as to what we were expected to do, what we were suppose to do, and what we should do. It was our senior year, and as a graduating class, as Kyle’s friends, we decided to go to school. Looking back I don’t know why or how we did it, but we did. Kayla and I arrived at school to a huddle of the rugby team – of which Kyle had been captain. The strongest of boys, holding on to each other, supporting each other, hugging each other, helping to make sure none of them would collapse alone. We cried. All of us. The entire day. We hugged. All of us. The entire day.
There were grief councilors roaming halls, and a memorial, set up in the chapel, but most of all, we needed eachother. We all needed to talk about Kyle. We needed to tell stories, and we needed to form in a communal place where we could be thankful for him. I asked for Kyle’s friends to gather in the cafeteria, and without hesitation, all of them did. I spoke first, trying to formulate some kind of beginning to some sort of ceremony, but I can’t remember a thing I said. Soon, one by one, other’s told their stories too. Emerging was the most peaceful memorial you could give a friend. The loss was so fresh, but we took initiative to bond together, to help each other to have a voice, to be expressive in any way we needed to, to cry without judgment, and to start some sort of healing. We hadn’t all been close before that day, but on that day, we understood that were all grieving, and we understood that we were all there for one another.
It had been said that Kyle’s death had likely been done with intention, and that was the hardest part. That was the part that took away our faith and our hope. We couldn’t understand why or how. We blamed ourselves for not noticing. I blamed myself for not noticing. I felt guilt, having just spent a week away at competition with Kyle a few weeks earlier…. that I hadn’t known. We had talked for hours straight during that trip, and I hadn’t truly asked how he was really doing inside, or in his head. We had been friends for years… and I didn’t know the side of him that would do this…
I lost all sense of reality over those next few weeks, and not a day went by that I didn’t break down and question my self. I couldn’t stop thinking about death. Nothing made sense, I couldn’t sleep, and I beat myself up, over and over again, thinking I could have prevented it. I couldn’t understand how Kyle could have been so unhappy… that one of the greatest and most positive lights in my life was actually so dark on the inside.
It wasn’t until a month later that Kyle’s death was offically ruled an accident – not a suicide. This accident was caused by his participation in “The Choking Game”.
Kyle was not into heavy drugs, an abuser of alcohol, a bad student, or a bad person. Kyle had a secret vice, one that seemed harmless, one that provided him with a rush that he did not seek though illegal substances. Kyle didn’t mean to die, but he made a mistake, he took a risk that took him from us. It is my hope that in reading this story that you will not only value the lives of your friends, as they can be taken from you in an instant, but to also value your own life, as your actions and decisions matter. It doesn’t however specifically matter if you’re into drugs, speeding, or drinking, all of your risky behavior has the possibility of affecting your friends and family for the rest of their lives too…
Kyle’s friends and family will never forget that day; they will never, ever, forget that pain. Be thoughtful and safe, not only for yourself, but for the people who love you. We don’t want to lose you too.