Last night I spent an hour creating a video that will play at the funeral of a wonderful, funny, sweet 16-year-old student who took his own life. To piece together that three-minute video, I must have looked at his face at least 100 times. I realized after about 20 minutes that I wasn't trying to find the perfect clip. I was trying to find the explanation.
I watched him over and over. I watched him throw his head back, pull up his shoulders and laugh. I watched how he would fidget just a little when he was nervous and I listened to his laugh over and over and over. And didn't see a thing that would allow me to come to the conclusion that I had found the explanation.
After the video was done and the house was silent, after I sat for what seemed like an eternity and just let the tears come, after I glanced over at my sweet, mischievous boy, just six years shy of 16, his eyes closed with his long, ginger lashes resting on his chubby cheeks, his mouth curling into a subconscious smile every now and then, I still didn't have the explanation.
I didn't have the explanation because there isn't one. But human beings are not designed to believe that. We are the generation of Steve Jobs, we want the solution and even more than that we want the resolution. We have to know and somewhere along the timeline of humanity we have replaced the condition of not knowing with the action of placing the blame. Because we believe in the power of the explanation, so much so that when there isn't one, we create one by placing the blame.
I laid in bed last night and cried for him. I knew him and I thought he was a terrific kid. He had a great laugh, the kind of laugh that made other people laugh. He had this gleam in his eyes that he would get when he was teasing about something. He loved to talk. He expected so much out of himself and was so frustrated when he couldn't get what he expected. He didn't know the explanation either; he placed the blame on himself. I cried for his mother and sister and father. I cried for his sweet friends who don't have the explanation either, and who I fear will blame themselves.
On this bright, crisp Saturday morning I woke up and went into my son's bedroom where he lay sleeping, the only 10-year-old in the world who can take up every bit of space in a queen-sized bed. I looked again at those eyes closed in sleep and I reached over and brushed his forehead with a mom kiss, the kind you don't get to give boys when they are over the age of five and awake. He roused and popped open his eyes and smiled that satisfied, happy smile that means somewhere along the line I might be doing something right. And at that moment I was terrified because I didn't have the explanation and not having the explanation means that it can't be understood. And if it can't be understood, it can't be controlled. He asked me why I was crying. He asked me if it was about the boy. I nodded.
He leaned over and wrapped his chubby little arms around me. And I became terrified. Because he is chubby. I became terrified because he is red-headed... Because he is not particularly good at sports... Because he has trouble with math... Because, because, because and I suddenly became paralyzed with fear that those things might have been the explanation. Because the explanation is a tricky thing.
When we can't see one, we create one; when we create one we explain it away because sometimes that explanation isn't good enough and so we create an explanation for the reason that the first explanation didn't explain anything. And then people get hurt and feel like they have to explain why the explanation is invalid simply so that they can validate themselves, soothe themselves or make it through this unacceptably unexplainable event.
There is one human being who has the explanation and that person is gone. Maybe he inadvertently explained it over and over and we just missed it. Maybe he couldn't explain it all. But not one of us left here to mourn him for a moment and then honor him for lifetime that he will now have only through our memories of him, not one of us have that explanation.
The explanation for this loss, the explanation for the pain, the explanation for the void that this beautiful young man left when he removed himself from the equation is actually quite simple: there is none.
And so because of that, we are left with an amazing challenge, one that human beings rally against with everything that is their essence. We are left to accept and honor this young man and his family who, like us, will never have what they need more than anything: the explanation.