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Ode to Charlie
One of the hardest things humans have to cope with is the death of a loved one. When my great grandfather died, I kept having strange, horrific dreams weeks after the funeral. Death is just a hard thing to get over.
Now, if the loss of a great grandfather had such a trying effect on me, you can imagine how I felt when I heard the news that a beloved and dear friend of mine passed away at the young age of thirteen. To this day, I can’t sleep without my TV on.
November 20,2008, I was at my house getting ready for my big début into the acting world with my role as a young Native American school girl in the play Murder Rides a Mule. I was on an adrenaline high, anxiously awaiting for my dad to put on my stage makeup and finish my transformation into a tan skinned black haired young Native American, when my mom received a very worried telephone call from my grandmother, asking if my seventeen year old sister, was safe at home. A few minutes later, my aunt called and asked the same thing.
Apparently there had been a fight between some teens. At least, that’s what the gossip said. I heard stories that one of them died, or both of the fighting people did. No one knew the official information. Thinking that it was some high-schoolers I didn’t even know, I was greatly amused by this.
It caused for a lot of excitement that night.
The next day, my parents told me I was staying home from school. I sensed absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. You see, Twilight the movie had come out at midnight the night before, and Mom and I had seen it. I was to be at home the next day sleeping in from that long night and then would watch Twilight again in the morning.
That night, I didn’t see much of my sister. Again, I didn’t sense anything wrong. I don’t really ever see much of her because of her busy high school schedule. I knew my friend was going to call me that night, so I hunted for my cell phone. I couldn’t find it, which isn’t new. I always misplace my cell phone.
When I came to the theater the second time, Dad told me I had to walk with him across the parking lot. Yet again, I didn’t see anything unusual, but complained because it was thirty degrees out and I was wearing a skimpy little Naïve American skirt and moccasins.
After the flawless performance by me, I talked and laughed with the guests, my Dad staying by my side the entire time. However, I would soon realize why I was being so sheltered. My father had to change out of his costume and into his regular clothes. He hadn’t told me to stay in the actor’s lounge, so I ventured out and was talking to some long time friends of my family. They congratulated me on my acting skills, like everyone had been doing, but then said one simple sentence that will forever haunt me until the day I die.
“We’re sorry about your friend,” one of them had said. I had been completely oblivious to what they were talking about, and they must have read it on my face. “Your friend in the car accident?” they added.
By this time, I was fed up by the unreliable gossip and anonymous people involved, so I folded my arms across my chest and said in a fed up voice, “Who was it in the car accident?”
“I…I think his name was Charlie,” she replied uneasily, looking at her family to see if she had gotten the name right.
Right away, everything grew excruciatingly hot, and my legs began to tremble beneath me. I placed my naturally cold hands to my face to steady my self and to provide some comfort on my scorching skin. It was difficult to breathe. My eyes were wide. “Charlie who?” I demanded, but my voice was weak to sound forceful. The family suddenly looked worried.
“Did you know him?” they asked. I nodded my head slightly.
“Charlie who?” I repeated.
“I think her name started with an S…Sm…Sm…”
“Smithson?” I finished, my voice shaking. They all nodded. “Oh my God. Ohhhh my God.”
My hands are shaking just thinking about what had happened while I’m writing this. It’s still a pretty sensitive topic to talk about.
Back to the moment of realization, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. My eyes were starting to sting, but I didn’t dare cry in front of my fans. I swallowed the lump in my throat. I needed to sit down. I felt like my knees were going to buckle, but I forced myself to stay steady.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” they soothed, patting my shoulder. I really needed to sit down. Finally, they congratulated me once more on my performance and I walked away, trying my best to keep composure.
I came into the privacy and safety of the actors’ lounge, I led myself to a chair. I didn’t even feel my wobbling legs move under me. I was just floating across the floor. The play’s director and the cast were crowding around me, asking for autographs and begging me to include them in my Oscar speech when I won one. I took the pad of paper and the pen, in a daze, and my legs dropped out from under me as I sank into a chair.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I held my burning head in my hands and chocked out a loud sob. I felt the cast and crew crowding around me once again, this time, instead of being proud peers, they were comforting friends. I heard my dad’s voice. “Who told her?” he demanded. Magically, the autograph paper and pen disappeared from my lap, and I felt a gentle hand pulling on me arm.
The next thing I knew, I was in a dark unused office in the building, sobbing uncontrollably into my dad’s chest.
All I could think about was how he was gone. How he had promised me he wouldn’t leave…he promised me he wouldn’t kill himself…but he did…
Many people loved Charlie. Practically everyone at our school showed up at his funeral. Not everyone could fit inside the funeral home during the service. He never ever made people fight. He never really even took anything seriously. If there was school drama (which there always is at the middle school), he would just laugh and joke about it…
But not everyone knew who he was on the inside. I doubt even his parents knew at first…but he told me…everything…
He had tried to kill himself before. There was a large wrist-band that he always wore on his forearm to prove it. Under that black cloth around his arm was a small white scar about three quarters of an inch long. I never asked him about it. Not ever.
I remember the day he told me he had found that razor. He didn’t go into detail or anything. Just, “I found a razor…” As soon as I heard that, I knew it was serious stuff he was getting himself into, and he needed help, so I told my parents, who contacted his parents with the news. The parents reassured us, saying they were getting a therapist to help Charlie with his depression…
The therapist thing didn’t work out…
I think about my trials with Charlie often. I think about all I did to try to help him, but in the end, I guess it just was unavoidable. This story has no happy ending. Charlie’s dead.
However, this taught me a very valuable lesson. You can’t control what other people do. That’s just not how it goes. But you can try your hardest to steer them in the right direction by showing love and compassion toward them and being there to listen when they need to do some venting of their emotions.
So, if you’re a friend of someone who slits their wrists, or someone who has done so in the past, or even just someone who stumbled over this article on the internet, hear me out. There’s always someone to talk to, and if someone approaches you with this on their mind, listen to what they have to say. Believe me, it’s better to get it out than to keep it bottled up inside. And by doing that, I really hope your story turns out better than this one…