“That lovely smiling face you see there is that of my son, Thomas.” He was depressed and suicidal, despite his appearance. On September 2nd, 2017, he, unfortunately, passed away. It was just a few days before his second year began.

He started his first job a few days later. He had planned to travel to the lake with pals that day. It was the end of a summer that had included basketball camp, lake days wakeboarding, mountain biking, road excursions, and a week-long family trip to a distant cottage where no phones were allowed.

It was also the most dreadful day imaginable. He was always the funny kid that was buddies with everyone, you see. He belonged to the ‘in-crowd,’ and he enjoyed making people laugh. He was also a highly athletic and competitive individual.

He was the child who was always too hard on himself, no matter how many times we advised him to relax and enjoy himself. He had a tribe of supporting and caring people who were constantly rooting for him in everything he did. He was always holding a basketball.

Ballplaying was a part of his personality. I had no idea that the disappointment of not making the team, a girl’s rejection, and teen pressure was driving him to suicide.

We discovered him missing when we awoke on September 2nd. We had just had a fight because he had been discovered slipping away.

I assumed he was angry and maybe at a friend’s because I didn’t see the suicide notes he left. We awoke his twin sister in the hopes that she would contact all of their mutual pals.

We all piled into the truck and began driving around while making phone calls to pals. We couldn’t reach him since he had his phone taken away just hours before after we fought over him sneaking out.

As word spread, people began to realize that no one knew where he was. Panic ensued. Was he attempting to flee? Or are you just going to hide for a while?

We decided to swing by the local park near our house, which he adored, as we were ready to head home to collect our thoughts.

We assumed we’d encounter him sitting on a bench or simply hiking about, being Tom… Instead, we encountered police cars, fire trucks, and road closures as we rounded the bend.

Still, I had no idea. I got out of the truck holding a photo of him on my phone, hoping to present it to the officer and explain that we were looking for him and that if they saw him, they should return him home. He stared over the photo before returning his gaze to me and asking whether I was Jennifer Chappell.

Yes, I replied. I was still perplexed. Then he stated officers were on their way to our house because my son Thomas had committed suicide there just hours before… It was too late for me.

He hung himself from a bridge in that park and scribbled on his shirt, “Call my mother…” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My husband and kid were perplexed as they exited the truck.

When the officer told my husband, he tried to push his way through them to verify if they were telling the truth since he didn’t trust them. When he saw our son’s backpack on the roadway, he instantly came to a halt. ‘Jennie, that’s his pack,’ he added, looking at me. I threw off my shoes and fell to the ground.

All I recall is seeing people emerge from their homes, arms around each other, staring at us in bewilderment. We discovered his suicide notes in his chamber afterward. He left behind his twin sister, his best four-legged companion, and a community that never gave up on him. He gave Mommy and Tommy some alone time.

He abandoned me. He didn’t give me the opportunity to assist him. He was terrified, afraid, and perplexed when he departed. Our lives have been eternally altered, and we live with grief every day. He would be here driving his 1972 Super Beetle and finishing his senior year if he had spoken out, begged for help, said something, anything.

You are not a burden if you believe you are.

You are mistaken if you believe that is a viable option.

If you think the minor issues you’re dealing with today won’t go away, think again.

I can tell you that you are important. You have a place here. You. You, you, you.

‘Go, play hard, and have fun,’ I used to say to Tom before every game.

Tom, I adore you.

“With love, Mom”

The story and photos: Jennifer Chappell