Had I known that the morning of April 25, 2018 would be the last time I would ever get to hold my child again I would have never let him go. I have relived April 25, 2018 and the months prior countless times and I always come to the same conclusion: there were no warning signs. Zero. Most mornings I still wake up with the same thought: maybe it was all a nightmare. And every day I must be reminded that yes, it is a nightmare - but I am living it.
Shane was bullied. He was bullied simply because he had a passion for Broadway Theater. I honestly had no idea. For the rest of my life I will be haunted wondering how I could not have known my own son was in so much pain. Perhaps he kept this a secret because he was too embarrassed, too proud, or too frightened to speak up. We will never know. Every day I ask myself what I would have done differently. Every day I come to the same conclusion: there were no warning signs. I had absolutely no idea. I think Shane’s story resonates with so many because I am the worst-case scenario. In the months since that day, I have become a very reluctant role-model for many because of the perceived strength and perseverance throughout this shitstorm that I have managed to portray to the outside world because I vehemently refuse to allow Shane’s death to be in vain. Shane has a story to tell people, and he has lessons to teach them. Shane will save lives, because he can.
After Shane died, I became obsessed with finding the answers to what seemed like thousands of questions I had: What signs did I miss? How did this happen? Why did this happen? How could I have saved my son’s life? How can I go on living? On one hand, I was aware that I would never find the answers I so needed. On the other hand, this would not stop me from searching for them. I immersed myself into learning everything I could about bullying. I entrenched myself into my own cocoon in my quest for answers and spent countless hours taking courses, reading journals, memorizing facts, conducting evidence-based research, speaking with bullying experts and I am committed to spend the rest of my life to ensuring that what happened to Shane never happens to another child.
About one week after I lost Shane, something profound happened that would have a forever impact on my life. One of my neighbors asked to drop something off for me. I learned her son, like Shane, was being relentlessly bullied. When she showed up at my house, her son said to her, "Mom. A really nice boy lives here. Every day he gives me a high-five on the bus. He's the only one who is nice to me."
He was talking about Shane.
This made me realize that one simple act of kindness can literally be the difference between life and death. I cannot help but think that if someone gave Shane a high-five on that horrible day, perhaps he would still be here. I also realized that telling someone you love them is vastly different than ensuring they love themselves.
For the rest of my life, I will do everything in my power to ensure that what happened to Shane never happens to another child.
I have made a conscious decision to channel my grief into making positive change... one act of kindness at a time.
A simple high-five changed my life forever.