Glen: The Boy Who Changed My Life

October 22, 2012
Monday, May 4, 2009.

"Glen died. From swine flu." some boys on the bus laughed.

Why would they joke about that? I was confused. I did know that those boys weren't the most honest, and swine flu hadn't been a problem in our area. I ignored them after a few minutes. Glen hadn't died.

I got off the bus that morning and walked into the middle school. The halls were abnormally silent. The only sounds were quiet sobs and sniffles. Groups of friends huddled together, hugging and comforting each other. Some boys (and girls) I never thought I'd see cry had reddish-pink tear-streaked faces.

I wondered what was going on. I joined my small group of friends near the tech guy's door. They told me what happened. Glen really had died, but it wasn't from swine flu. Glen had committed suicide on Saturday, May 2, 2009.

Glen was 13 years old. He didn't have the best grades and sometimes got into trouble, but he was a friendly guy. He always had a smile on his face, wanted to make others happy, and loved to laugh. Looking at him, you'd never know he was hurting so badly. I didn't.

My heart dropped when I heard the news. I wasn't sure how to react. I was a seventh grader who'd never lost anyone to suicide. Glen and I weren't the best of friends, but we talked to each other in the classes we had together. How was I SUPPOSED to react?

I didn't let it bother me. The reality hadn't hit me yet. It would in a few hours.

At 8:05, we all went to our lockers to get the things we needed for first hour. I realized I had forgotten my trumpet at home. I went to the office and got permission to call my parents. I asked my mom if my dad could bring my trumpet before 9:00, before second hour started. I then told her the news.

"Oh, and one of my friends killed himself." was what I said. I said it kind of casually, but with sadness. My mom asked if I was okay and what friend it was. I told her I was fine and that it was Glen, my table partner in English class.

School began. Soon after, I was called out of class. I found my parents near the office, holding my trumpet case and talking to another friend's mom. My mom gave me my trumpet and a hug. My friend's mom said a crisis team type thing would be at the school all day. She was trying to get her daughter to go to a group, and my parents wanted me to do the same. I didn't want to. I was fine. I decided I'd do it, anyway, if only to please my parents.

Later, my friend, her mom, and I went to the school library to participate in a group counseling kind of thing. Everyone sat in a circle, like you see on TV. We told how long we'd known Glen, how we felt, and other stuff like that. I didn't have much to say. I met him in 6th grade and didn't know him extremely well, but I was beginning to get to know him better. That's basically what I shared.

The reality still hadn't hit me. It didn't hit me until third hour came around. English was third hour. Glen and I sat next to each other in that class. The second bell rang, and it was time for class to start. There was just an empty chair beside me. No Glen. That's when everything started to sink in. Glen was really gone.

Mrs. T, our English teacher, tried to make the hour as normal as possible. We did assignments and carried on. I sat in my chair, tears streaming down my cheeks. I wasn't the only one, though.

The rest of the school day was rough. I couldn't get Glen off my mind, no matter how hard I tried. When I got home, dinner was ready, but I didn't feel like eating. I just wanted to lay down and rest.

I woke up Tuesday morning. My 13th birthday. It was supposed to be a good day, but Glen was still on my mind. All the birthday wishes from friends, family, and teachers did little to cheer me up.

Third hour inevitably came again. The chair next to me was still empty, a constant reminder that Glen was gone. Our teacher wasn't at school that day, so we had a substitute named Ms. B. She had been a student teacher in social studies earlier in the year. After everyone got started on their assignments, she called me out into the hall. I was nervous. Most of the time, students only get called into the hall if they're in trouble. Thankfully, that wasn't the case.

"Mrs. T said you might need someone to talk to." she explained. I don't remember how I responded, but I remember her giving me a hug and telling me happy birthday.

A few hours later, Mr. H, the principal, called me out of social studies. He bought me a lemonade on the way to his office as a birthday gift and an attempt to make me feel better. When we went into his office, he asked how I was. He told me the funeral would be the next day, and it'd probably be good for me to attend it. He gave me the details and told me what to expect at a funeral. We talked for a bit.

I got home from school and told my parents what Mr. H said. They said we could go to the funeral.

"I don't have a black shirt to go with my black pants, though." I said. My mom then told me that you don't have to wear all black to a funeral. Many people don't. What I see on TV and in movies isn't exactly what funerals are like. I decided I'd wear my black dress pants and shoes and purple and white dress shirt.

Like so many students and teachers, I didn't go to school Wednesday. I woke up and got ready for the funeral. Once my parents were ready and it was time to go, we left. The drive to the funeral home a half hour away seemed to take forever. When we arrived, it was hard to find a parking spot. The parking lot was filled with vehicles, and people were everywhere.

Some workers at the funeral home directed everyone to the room we were supposed to be in. There wasn't enough space for all the people. Some of us had to sit outside the doors in extra chairs that were brought out, and some of us had to sit on the staircase. It was a huge turnout.

Our principal and good friends of Glen spoke. Lyrics to hymns were passed out. We sang the songs. The preacher recited the famous 23rd Psalm. Eventually, it was time for everyone to line up and walk by the casket.

"Will you be okay?" my mom inquired. She wasn't sure I should do it. She didn't want me to get too upset or have the image of my deceased friend haunt me forever. All I could do was nod. For some reason, I felt like I needed to see him.

My heart pounded as our turn to see him neared. What does a dead person really look like? What will Glen look like? Will I really be okay? Questions rushed through my mind like a never-ending gust of wind. I held back tears and swallowed.

My pace quickened slightly when I saw him laying in that light blue coffin. He didn't look like he was at peace. Weren't people supposed to seem at peace when they were dead? His skin was pale, and there was no smile on his face. He just looked. . . cold. . . dead. . . I'm not sure how to describe him. But the image of him laying there is burned into my memory.

Somehow, I managed not to cry. Maybe I was just too shocked from seeing him. Even during our 45-minute drive to the cemetery in the little town where he would be laid to rest, I didn't cry. I just rested my head against the window and stared out it, despondent.

When we got to the cemetery, I saw his now-closed casket near a six-foot deep hole in the earth. People stood around it. Someone played a violin. We sang another song or two. Everyone had the chance to go up to the casket, to touch it and say goodbye to Glen before he would be lowered into the ground and buried forever. His football teammates and close friends and family stared at it and approached, running their fingers along the top with shaky hands. Glen's younger brother sat on the ground near the casket and cried loudly. My tears didn't come until it was almost time to leave. I broke down and cried the whole way home.

I laid on the couch when I got home. I didn't even bother to change out of my dress clothes into something more comfortable. I turned my back to the world and tried to sleep, not wanting to believe that Glen was gone but knowing he was. He was gone and never coming back.

The days following the funeral weren't any easier than the days before. English was especially painful.

"Do this assignment with your partners." Mrs. T said on Thursday or Friday. A sound escaped my throat. My eyes teared up. My partner was dead. Glen and I wouldn't be doing anymore assignments together. We wouldn't exchange papers when it was time to correct them. I'd never be able to help him find answers when he was supposed to be doing something himself and hope I wouldn't get caught. We'd never do anything together again.

To this day, I still have the assignments Glen and I did together and the ones of mine that he corrected. Sometimes, I take them out and reminisce about the happy times. His somewhat sloppy handwriting makes me smile. I can almost hear his laugh and his voice.

It's been a little over three years now since Glen took his own life. Since then, the class of 2014 has become closer; our class has been through a lot together. All the support from my family, friends, and school staff members after he died made me realize that people really care about me. His death brought me closer to people and made me value them more than I did. I also value my own life more. You never know when a loved one will be taken form you, and you never know when it'll be your time to go.

Glen's death also made me realize that sometimes the people who are always smiling are the ones who are hiding a mountain of pain. The ones who always try to make others happy and who always seem happy themselves are the ones who are hurting the most. You never know for sure what's truly behind a smile.

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