Yesterday we lost the life of my great nephew Kaelan, my niece Sara’s boy, my sister Dana’s grandson, to suicide. That is how he died, but I hope no one sees him as just another statistic. That doesn’t tell the whole story. There are always so many layers. He is so much more than how his life ended. His story ended tragically, but he was full of life. That life is what we will choose to remember.
He was 17. Incredibly bright. A lover of animals, especially reptiles. I know…..who loves reptiles? To me it was crazy. His mom Sara told a story today about how their former neighbor called Animal Control and reported them saying they had an alligator on the premises. It was his pet iguana, that he would take on walks on a leash.
While I can’t say he made me love reptiles, he made me consider them as possibly less than vile. And some….I had to agree…were actually amazing when I looked and saw them through his eyes. He knew so much about them. Had so much compassion for them. He’d show me pictures and say “Aunt Kim, look at this one. I think you’ll like it.” Sometimes I did. I expect In the future I will be even more open to them. I have one friend who I remember when I see butterflies. I’ll think of Kaelan when I see lizards and snakes and other such creatures.
He was artistic. Such a beautiful and talented artist. He was a free spirit. He was passionate and opinionated and stubborn. I didn’t always agree with him, but I do love people who speak their mind. I expected as he matured, his opinions would have more layers and he would change his mind about a few things. Most of us do.
He was a skateboarder who drove me crazy when I heard about some of his antics. I’d lecture him on occasion (I have a tendency to do that) and he would give me a look of amused tolerance. We both knew nothing was changing.
He was a hard and good worker, something not seen in teenagers often these days, who once thanked me for “letting him” and his stepdad Brian spend most of their day mulching my yard. He was loving and sweet and kind to me. Always. And a great companion. I have wonderful memories of our Tosco Music Party dates, where we would laugh and sing and on the way home talk enthusiastically about our favorites.
He was loved. So very loved. By so many people. His loss is proof that love is not always enough to save someone. Suicides don’t occur because of a shortage of love or because the person doesn’t know they were loved. I am absolutely certain that was something he never doubted.
I’ve been numb since I heard. It still doesn’t seem real. I wonder if it ever really will. But yet our whole world has changed. Oh, I know we will live and laugh. We will celebrate the 17 years we knew him and be grateful we have so many beautiful memories to overshadow the bad. We will also mourn. What he could have been, should have been. Every day ahead will be different than it would have been if he was still in this world.
I know God knew his pain. I know God knows our pain and the many conflicted feelings that course through our veins as we try to get through this time. I don’t know how to do this. Don’t know how to act. Don’t know how to react. It’s one of those times you let God carry you through, borrowing on his strength to cover your weakness….but not even feeling you are doing that very well. You feel paralyzed. And distracted. And like the world is a little off kilter. This shouldn’t be happening.
You may not have known him, but I would be happy to tell you more. I pray that you will know others like him and won’t just walk by them. I pray that you will join me and we will find a way to really help them. To remind them of their purpose, instead of letting them feel helpless. To encourage them to live, really live, instead of even for a moment wanting to die.
Oh…..our Kaelan could have changed the world. He had it all. Everything he needed to be successful. Everything he needed to be happy beyond measure. He couldn’t see it himself. Didn’t think he had what it would take to endure. What could have helped him? What could have changed this outcome? I have no clue. The last years I couldn’t figure out a way to help, to support, and not enable. Because of this, in the end I most often stayed away. I felt like I would just nag and needle and make it all worse. Was that right or wrong? There is no way to know. I know he knew I was there, adoring him, but I missed him. I think he knew that, too.
My heart breaks for all of us who love him. That love is still living and active. It will be as long as we live. He is a part of who we all are. It’s a beautiful thing, even though now tinged with so much sadness. That kind-hearted boy would not want us to feel pain, but as we couldn’t prevent that in him, he can’t prevent that in us. To never get another big hug from those long gangly arms, it seems impossible. He was the first member of a new generation for our family…so much hope and promise. It’s wrong that he will not be here long after we’re gone.
Knowing him, loving him, losing him….it changed me. It changed a lot of us. We will mourn his death, but even more we will find ways to celebrate his life. Kaelan Avery Privette, you mattered so much and you will never be forgotten. We will live life a bit more fully, since you cannot. And we will spread the love you leave behind all around the world.