An open letter to Shane’s friends:
Hi, this is Shane’s mom. First off, I’d like to thank you for being Shane’s friend. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to know that despite the pain he was in, he had you in his life. It makes me happy to know that you shared memories with him and made him laugh. I love to hear the stories of your adventures with Shane and the fun you had together. It gives me gratitude that you made him feel welcome and included. You made him feel like he wasn’t alone.
Second, I need to personally apologize to you because for whatever reason I feel responsible for the fact that a part of your childhood innocence is gone forever. I know there is nothing I could have done (because you know, if I could have, I wouldn’t be writing this letter to you), but I will always be haunted by seeing your anguish first-hand. But I will also always remember hugging each of you because to me, each embrace made me feel closer to Shane simply because you were his friend. I need you to know that if there was any way that I could erase your sorrow, I would personally do whatever it took just to know that you never had to experience what you have. And, there is no doubt about the pain you will feel for the rest of your life. This grief is something no child should ever have to endure. So, this is yet another burden I will have to carry with me forever.
I know that you are still quite young, and I’m writing this letter in the hopes that someday you will read this letter and it will bring back fond memories of my Shane. One of the things I fear the most in the world is that Shane will be forgotten, that as time passes and you get older, he will slowly become a distant memory. I never want him to become an urban legend about some kid who was bullied and committed suicide. I need to know that you will remember Shane, and that your memories of your time with Shane will never fade.
Please promise me that you will never forget him.
Each time you read this letter, I want you to think about Shane and how he made you feel. Of how he made you laugh, how he made you feel about yourself. I want you to remember specific things you did together. But most important, I need to know that you will remember to always be kind. This is what Shane would want of you, and you know how important it is in my quest to ensure that Shane’s death was not in vain.
As you know, kindness is something that Shane lived by. Perhaps he thought that being kind to everyone would protect him from the very hate that killed him. I need you to always remember what the actions of just a few people – kids - did to Shane. I want you to remember that for whatever reason, he came to believe all the things they said about him and to him. As his mom, I will forever be plagued knowing that Shane was in silent pain, a pain that was so unbearable to him that he felt that leaving us was his only way out.
Hate killed Shane. Please always be kind. No matter what obstacles you may face, I need to know that you will always be kind. I was certain that Shane knew how loved and appreciated he was. I told him I loved him multiple times every day. But it pains me to know that he must not have loved and appreciated himself. There is a big difference. This is a profound lesson for you because you need to understand that no matter what anyone thinks of you, you are awesome. It is what makes us different from anyone else that make us amazing, and our diversity makes the world a much better place to live.
Please don’t forget that one kind word or gesture can literally save a life.
I don’t want you to look back on childhood pictures and find a photo of yourself with Shane and not remember who he was and the memories you shared together. Or, worse yet, only remember him as just some kid who took his own life. Please don’t let Shane become that kid. Please look at those treasured photos and vividly recall exactly where you were and how you felt. I need to know that you will tell stories about your adventures for many years to come.
Please always remember the human being he was, how much fun he was, how he made you laugh, and how he had a unique knack for always making people feel awesome. Perhaps you will remember his contagious chuckle, or his “Blackjack Clap” (where he would make a key point, clap his hands twice very fast and then fan out the palms of his hands like a blackjack dealer). His adoration and passion for Broadway Theater, and how he would offer his birthday money to take someone with him to see a show. His ability to turn a negative into a positive, or to simply just be your friend. With Shane, you were never alone, and that Shane impacted your life, and you impacted his. That alone is a gift.
I want you to remember Shane’s kindness. Of how he always thought of others and (on the outside) didn’t give a crap about what people thought or said. Because that was Shane. Please never forget the irony in this, as there will be many times in your life that you will not know the pain someone is in, regardless of how they appear on the outside. No one knew the depths of Shane’s pain, and I never want you to feel guilty about either not knowing about his pain, or that you could have done something. I insist that you release yourself from this burden. I promise you that there is nothing any of us could have done. I think about this every day.
Finally, please always know how thankful I am that you were in Shane’s life. All I ask of you is that you never forget my Shane and the impact he had on your life.
Please don’t forget him, because he is very much worth remembering.
Sandy (proud mom of Shane)
My name is Sandy, and I am Shane's mom. Since his (ugh, I still can't admit it's happened) death I have kept a journal of thoughts as they came to my head.