It’s a sunny Thursday morning in Eden Prairie. And it’s too soon for me to write this letter.
Way too soon.
But I can’t wait even one more night.
One more night. That’s what I asked my son to give me. Just one night. I slept on the floor near his bed to make sure he would make it through one more night.
Until he didn’t.
Last Friday, several days after his 17th birthday, my son died from depression. Suicide.
During the days before that, Jonas was cheered on by fans at his volleyball matches. He showed off waterskiing and wakeboarding moves with friends on Lotus Lake. We snuggled on our saggy couch as we laughed at exactly the same time during our favorite Modern Family reruns. He made me laugh with his spot-on (and some not even recognizable) impressions as he quoted our favorite movie lines.
He was also writing goodbye notes to friends and family.
How can it be? Jonas was active in soccer, hockey and more recently, volleyball. He loved playing tenor and alto sax in Eden Prairie High School jazz and marching bands. He was born to be in water – a natural at swimming, boating, waterskiing, wakeboarding and staying on the tube no matter how hard Dad tried to dump him. He had a goofy sense of humor, and was affectionate with family and friends.
He was intelligent, responsible, playful, confident, creative and willing to try new things. A stubborn know-it-all too – you know, just a normal teen. He loved his job sharpening skates, listening to classic rock music he couldn’t believe his parents were cool enough to know, as well as each and every dog on the planet, Star Wars Legos (the ones I didn’t step on, at least), snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, watching action shows with the volume up too high, and relentlessly teasing his mother.
Speaking of Mom … Jonas often prodded me to “stop lollygagging” so he wouldn’t be late to school, job or activity – and to Jonas, “on time” meant five minutes early. He didn’t ask for help with homework because he always got it done before coming home from school. He gave me big bear hugs from behind, struggling to get my feet off the ground as we groaned in unison. I rarely had to drop off something at school that he forgot to bring, maybe two or three times throughout his school years. (I was that lucky mom who didn’t need to speed to school in her pajamas hoping people would think it was leisure wear.)
Most of all, Jonas was loved. Deeply. Unconditionally. Intentionally. Demonstrably. Every single minute, every single day. He was surrounded by a supportive, engaged extended family that spent so much time working and playing together. He had caring friends, neighbors, teachers, instructors and coaches.
So how can it be that this guy – this beloved guy with a promising, bright future – saw suicide as his only way to escape the pain inside? Why were his nights so dark in so many ways? We knew for a few months that Jonas was struggling, and he fought every step we took to guide him on a path toward healing.
But as daunting as we knew the journey might be, we didn’t think it would end this way.
We really, really didn’t.
I’m not writing this to offer explanations, advice or solutions. I’m not even going to tell you to hug your teen. (Go hug your teen right now.) I’m reaching out to tell you about my son – my dear child who won’t be graduating with his pals in 2023, enjoying his first sips of freedom in college, celebrating that first big paycheck, walking down the aisle to meet his bride or proudly placing his newborn baby with gorgeous brown eyes into my arms.
You might know someone like Jonas. You might be someone like Jonas. Someone may find it excruciatingly difficult to get through one more night like Jonas did.
To that person, please give us one more night. Just one night.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal crisis or emotional distress, help is available. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (the Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Crisis workers are available 24 hours a day. Calls are free and confidential.