June 6, 2019
An open letter to any kid who is being bullied:
Hi, my name is Sandy. I want to start off by saying how truly sorry I am that you are feeling so bad right now. I can tell you that I was bullied when I was a kid, but I know that won’t make you feel better. I can tell you many things, but please know that I know you are scared. I am here to let you know that you are not alone, and this is not your fault.
My son Shane was only 11 years old when he took his own life. I found out that he was being bullied only after he died. Today would have been his 13th birthday. A big milestone, and a very painful one for me. June 6 was always such a happy day for us, because Shane woke up as if it was Christmas morning. The countdown to the ‘big day’ would begin in January, and he would know exactly how many days there were left until his birthday. Shane was born on 06/06/06 in room 6 and never hesitated to tell anyone who would listen because after all, what are the chances?
I literally had no idea that Shane was being bullied. He never told me. Instead, he suffered in silence and there was nothing I could do to help him. For the rest of my life I will always be haunted thinking that I missed something and that I could have saved his life. I know there is nothing that I could have done, but that will never keep me from believing that I failed him.
I’m writing this to you because I need you to know that no matter how you feel right now, I promise you that you are not alone. I promise you that there are people who would be honored to help you, even if it’s just someone to talk to, a shoulder to lean on, or to simply sit in silence with. I’m saddened by the fact that you are going through this right now, but you really do need to understand that it will get better. What you are going through right now is not okay, and most important of all – it is not your fault. The fact that you had the courage to stand up and tell someone about it is truly remarkable. The definition of a hero is someone who stands up to adversity, even when it’s the hardest thing to do. I cannot think of anything more courageous than telling someone what you are going through. So, it is you that is a hero.
I know you will likely never forget the pain that the other kids are causing you, but please know (and I am not just saying this) that you have done nothing wrong. People who bully others are actually the most insecure people of all. Think about this: when you are happy, would you want to hurt someone else – on purpose? I would think not. I’m left to wonder what is making them so unhappy with themselves that they feel that making someone else feel bad could make them feel good? Think about this: you will never find anyone who has been admired (or liked ) by showing how small others are.
When you are finally able to recognize how great you are (trust me, you are), you will realize then how much you have to give. I speak at schools to kids about this too, because you’ve probably been told countless times to be kind (which you should, of course!). But in order to be kind to others, you need to first be kind to yourself. When you realize your self-worth, that will clearly send the message to others how you expect to be treated. You are perfectly imperfect, and so is everyone else on this planet. No one person is better than any other, no matter how much some may try. I ask that you forgive yourself for being imperfect, appreciate the amazing person you are, and to never set unrealistic expectations about the person you should be. Just, be.
Remember, no matter what – you are not alone. You are brave, you are amazing. And, I am proud of you.
Sandy (Shane’s mom)
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)
Exactly one year ago today, almost to the very moment I am typing this, was a day like any other. I woke up at 6am, got my boys us to get ready for school, got them onto the bus and I went off to work. There was nothing unusual about anything. The night prior, the same thing. I always make sure to try to keep weekday evenings during the school year as routine as possible. I come home from work, kiss the boys hello and ask them how their days were, go upstairs to change, come downstairs and pour myself a glass of wine and relax for about 15 minutes before getting up to make dinner. During this time, the boys get showered and finish their homework so that we can all eat together, talk about things, and spend quality time together. After dinner, we cuddle on the couch and watch TV before they are told it's bedtime. So, off they go, always complaining that it is too early for bedtime and how none of their friends have to go to bed that early etc. What they don't realize is that I know that by the time they get upstairs, brush teeth and finally get settled in, it's hours later anyway. Three boys tend not to just go straight to sleep, as they talk, talk, talk, so the routine bedtime was based off of the assumption, and confirmation that no one would be asleep before 9:30/10:00 anyway. And, the fact of the matter is that the bus comes at 6:45am, and I knew full well by experience that getting three sleepy, grouchy little fellows off to school is no easy task.
Nothing was different. Yet - everything was completely different. Had I known that the moment I kissed him goodbye and got him on the bus would be the last time I would ever see my baby alive again, I would have never let him go. Every single day is painful for me. Every day something new will remind me that Shane is not here with me.
My grief and despair is equally as bad now as it was that day - one year ago. April 25, 2018 - what seemed to be a perfectly normal day immediately and unexpectedly turned into the worst day of my life.
Donating Shane's organs wasn't even my idea. The truth is, I was in deep shock, denial and heavily medicated. It was Shane's brothers - grieving kids themselves - boys who lost their childhoods forever that day - who were able to think of others - you - throughout the worst time of their own lives.
I say this because I want you to get a perspective, an idea of the goodness and beauty that live within my children. Their selfless natures are only one teeny fraction of the blessed qualities that each of them possesses, and this is something that you should know.
I have written this letter, because I need you to know who Shane was, and how exquisite of a human being he was, and how his spirit is, and will continue to inspire many. You are now an inherent part of my soul, my baby, my love, my 'monkey bear' (this was my nickname for Shane because when he was a baby he would climb up my body like a little monkey climbing a tree, and wrap his arms and legs around me like a koala bear = Monkey Bear). You have been given a gift far greater than I believe you will ever know.
I must admit something. Because I am writing this letter from a place of truth. While, as a fellow human being I am deeply happy that you have a future that perhaps you did have not one year ago today, the instinctual and maternal piece of me - the MOMMY - feels resentment I never knew I'd have. I am an honest, good person - but I am also a mom who lost her son. A person who will most certainly never feel true happiness again, because there will always be something missing.
I now have only two kids to count, not three. My instincts still (and likely always will) prompt me to get three of everything: 3 Easter baskets, 3 donuts from Dunkin Donuts, 3 hoodies when I can get away to surprise them with a present from my travels, 3 kids to feed, cuddle and love. Three to two becomes an infinite void that will never be filled.
Right now, there is someone on this earth with Shane's beautiful heart. A heart that was certainly crafted from fine gold. An open, caring, loving heart. A heart that only felt the good in this world, that turned a negative into a positive no matter what (even when Santa said he wouldn't bring anything but coal - Shane was happy that mommy could have a warm house and maybe one day a big diamond from said coal). A heart filled with empathy I have yet to find in another human being. A heart so precious, that Shane would give away his prized possessions because he just loved to make others happy and always spoke about the looks on their faces when he did. So, whoever you are - you need to know how truly special that heart is that is now beating with life inside of you, each beat feeding you with the life that I so long to still have with me.
Please take great care of that heart and continue to spread the love that Shane so selflessly always did. And, each time you feel its rhythm - I ask that you try to think of Shane, one of the most amazing human beings there ever was - as a final gift from him - to you.
I wonder if you are reading this because you are now able to see through Shane's eyes: If you can see the sheer beauty in the world, in the littlest things, as Shane always did. If you are able to read this, you need to know that Shane saw the world differently than most people. Shane found goodness and beauty in everything, and everyone. Not only did Shane compliment people, even strangers (we used to call it the 'Miss Crabtree moment - if you know the Little Rascals, you know what I mean), Shane was known for finding the shape of a heart everywhere we went, no matter where or when - there was always a heart to be found: in raindrops, clouds, strawberries, stones, shadows, anything - I can go on and on.... That says a lot about him, I think.
I also called Shane my "rainbow hunter" because after a storm, Shane seemed to always be the first to find the rainbow in the sky. Trust me, there was a competition. So, if you are one of the people who can see through Shane's eyes - the next time you notice a heart - or a rainbow - or simply see beauty in something, no matter how insignificant it may seem - please know that Shane was beautiful too - inside and outside. And, oh, his eyes. His beautiful almond-shaped, brown eyes - perfect eyes - I always asked him where he thought he got them from because they were unlike any in the family. Those perfect eyes perfectly symbolize the person Shane was: just beauty and perfection, unlike any other.
I've heard that someone received Shane's lungs - The lungs that breathed life into my baby's body. The lungs that filled with the air of joy or anticipation on Christmas morning, before he blew out his birthday candles on his cake, waiting for a Broadway show to start, the night I won a cooking competition for our family's Sauerbraten recipe: That deep inhalation of breath, of life, air that was slowly released or quickly exhaled - depending on the situation.
I cannot tell you how many times Shane and I were together walking, usually hand in hand (he was not ashamed of me, thankfully!) - making memories and just talking about things. I am so grateful that I have never taken a moment for granted. Every breath Shane took was one taken with gratitude by me. I pray that you feel that gratitude as well, because the breaths we each take on this earth have a finite number - while Shane's has ended - yours has begun, and each breath you take please try to remember how pure and awesome they had been being protected by my Shane.
Each year at Halloween (our favorite, and it was a huge deal in my house - we even made our house and barn into walkthrough haunted houses), Shane would have a vision in mind as to what he wanted to be. But, it was never (not once) the typical costume selected by someone his age (example: I took him to Alcatraz when he was just old enough to know what Halloween is (and to show him what can happen to 'bad people'), and in the two weeks until Halloween, Shane decided he wanted to be 'The Birdman of Alcatraz'. Since then, his costumes became even more specific and the last two years of his life, his specific vision required that he sit in a chair for over two hours, with me painting a special glue to his face used for such purposes. He sat there so patiently, and I had no idea what I was doing, other than the occasional break to watch a YouTube instructional video. He didn't complain, but all I kept thinking was the fumes he could be breathing into those precious lungs, so all of the windows were open, and I made him take breaks to ensure he was OK. I was so careful to make sure he didn't inhale the fumes - so that I could protect the lungs that now protect you. But, when he was finally able to see the final result, the massive inhalation of surprise and giddiness, his face beaming with excitement and pride knowing that I was able to transform him into what he had envisioned in his own mind.
The lungs that now fill with air, used to be filled with gratitude, pride and joy. I can tell you more often than anyone I have ever met. The lungs that gave my baby boy life, the second he was born and that anticipated newborn baby cry - now belong to you. So, please take the time to smell the flowers. This is something Shane and I did all the time. Perhaps he knew his time was short, perhaps he knew he had a reason. I will never know, but I ask that you understand this. Please take the time to appreciate the things that most people take for granted. For, this is what life is about.
I want you to know that I have dedicated my life to ensuring that what happened to Shane doesn't happen to another child.
Hate kills. Hate killed Shane. The one with the golden heart, eyes that see only beauty, and lungs that beam with the joy of being alive.
I wish I could have prevented his heart from being broken because of the cruelty of kids that will likely never know the love everyone has for Shane.
I wish I could have wiped the tears that must have streamed out of those beautiful old-soul eyes that fell down his beautiful face.
I wish I could tell him how much I love him, cuddle with him, hold his warm hand and feel him just breathing precious air. I just want him home safe, with me.
Please know that while I am extremely happy for you, and we may never even meet, all I ask is that you PLEASE, PLEASE take good care of yourself. Because as long as you are alive, a part of Shane is alive too, and this brings me comfort.
Very sincerely yours,
Sandy - Shane's mom
Today I was helping someone in their office electronically document transactions that were only written in an old notebook. Since I'm pretty good at Excel, I offered to do it. Plus, I didn't really have to think about anything other than just typing in what was in the book.
Until... I got to April 25th. Another one of the "unexpected moments" I hate so much. Random, every day things that hit me like a brick along the side of my skull, that hurts every cell in my body like a school of piranha living inside of me, eating away from the inside out.
It's the every day moments, that I've decided to document in this blog because it not only helps me heal (is that possible?) when I write, but hopefully anyone reading this will never take the "little" things for granted. I'll use examples in future entries, but for now - the old spiral notebook.
So, today when I saw this notebook, full of handwritten transactions by date, I could not help but stop when I got to April 25, 2018 because that was the day everything changed. When I saw the date, my heart sank and I turned cold. I couldn't even blink. I just stared at that date, and so many things instantly came into my mind. That, the very second whoever wrote the entry into the book, Shane was still alive. He was at school, and I at work never EVER imagining the hell that was to come. Perhaps he was laughing with his friends with that infectious laugh that made everyone smile. Maybe he was at lunch eating pizza, or in ELA, or Science learning about how the class would be releasing the trout that they had been raising all year long. What if that was the moment that set him over the edge. The moment where young kids felt that making someone feel insignificant and inferior simply because he had things they didn't. What if that was the moment he decided to do what he did?
I looked at the ink on the paper, long dried, and realized that there are so many things I'll never have answers to, but I will be searching for something - what, I don't know - my entire life. I realized that there are going to be tons of things during the life I have left to live that will rock me to my core. I realized that I cannot enable this to engulf me into the darkness that is calling to me every day.
That tiny, insignificant entry into an old spiral notebook...Changed everything.
I loved to be with my Grandpa
His steps were slow like mine;
He never said to "hurry up"
We always took our time
Most people have to rush things
They never stop to see;
Most people don't experience
A bond like you and me
We created such great memories
To always cherish in our hearts;
It's something that we'll always have
Even if we are apart
So, with every year that passes
You're no less special than before;
Through every stage and every age
I'll love you even more
Right from the very beginning
I knew it right away;
The bond that we created
Will never go away
All I ask is you don't forget me
Whatever that you do;
That I'll always be your buddy
And will always truly love you
I want to share a letter that I wrote to the kid(s) who bullied Shane. I have never sent it, but it was a way for me to express myself to them in my own way. Any parent who has a child that has been bullied can relate. Any parent who has a child who is the bully should take heart:
To the kid who bullied my son:
I know you are too young to grasp the impact that your words and actions have had on my son, yet I still hold you responsible for what you have done because you are old enough to know what is right from what is wrong. I also know the impact you may have on those of your friends who, while may be inherently good kids, have fed into your actions and behavior because they want to conform to what they think is “being cool” so that they can ‘fit in’. And, the impact to those who know that while what you have done is wrong, remained silent in fear of retaliation is unknown.
When you called him “gay”, what you don’t know is that he and I had a bond unlike any other. As a result, he tended to feel more comfortable with and trust women, because he knew that we are nurturing. And as his mom, he understood unconditional love because I would never hurt him. So, because you and your posse of friends saw my son with a gaggle of girls…. Perhaps you now can have a better perspective of why he decides to surround himself with people he trusts. Actually, your actions and behavior must have only reinforced to him that some people can’t be trusted or respected.
When you made fun of him for loving music and theater, what you never saw was the light in my son’s eyes the first time he ever saw a play, and the complete appreciation and passion for something he had never experienced before. And, because he was so enthusiastic, he only wanted to share his passion with others.
What you didn’t know, is that he saved his birthday money to be able to buy a ticket for one of his friends who had never seen a play. This selfless act is only a tiny example of the innate goodness that existed within that tiny body. And, because of this passion and enthusiasm you taunted him, ridiculed and acted so cruelly to him I very much doubt you have ever found something to become that passionate about. That is sad.
I strive to do things with my children that THEY love because memories are made, not purchased.
When you laughed at him, in his face and behind his back, what you don’t know is how hard he always tried to fit in, but mostly just for people to like him. That, all he wanted to do is be accepted for the amazing human being that he was. But, because of his history and pain, he was never been able to fully grasp the concept of self-acceptance and self-esteem. He looked up to kids like you to determine his own self-worth regardless of how many times I have told him how amazing he is and how others perceptions of him are meaningless.
When you called him “retarded”, what you don’t know is that in addition to all else I have described thus far, he was diagnosed with ADD when he was in Kindergarten, which clearly only further outcasted him from people like yourself. What you don’t know is how hard I fought to find a solution to why my son could not sit still or control his behavior. Because, as I have mentioned, my son looked to women as a system of support – and if you look at the demographics of pre-school and Kindergarten teachers, I am certain you will find that the large majority are female. Thus, I attributed his behavior for seeking attention.
What you don’t know, is how extraordinarily intelligent my son was. How his wit made me laugh every, single day and how he knew more about most things than I do. And how inherently proud I am of him for always turning a negative into a positive, which someday I hope you learn not many people can do. How your words and actions seeped into his brain, and made him start to actually believe that the rhetoric you said to him was true, which resulted in him shutting down and giving up.
When you made fun of his clothes and the way he dresses, what you don’t know is that I am a single mother struggling to make ends meet. And, while your clothes may come from the mall, my son’s came from the thrift store, and hand-me-downs. But… he appreciated all that he had because he knew how hard I have worked for him to have them. When you made fun of the shirts he proudly wore from the Broadway shows he had seen, what you don’t know is that underneath that shirt was a heart of gold which, thanks to you is gone forever.
What you don’t know is that he would never let you see him cry, for he was smart enough to understand that would only add fuel to the fire. That he would wait until he came home, raced upstairs to his room and suffered alone because he was too embarrassed to tell anyone.
What you don’t know is that the words you have spoken are like weapons. But unlike a cut, your words scarred him, deep within his soul. Perhaps with time they would have faded, but will have always lingered. But, this I will never know.
What you don’t know is that I will forever be haunted by the humiliation and pain you must have caused my son. However, my feelings could never compare to the humiliation and pain he must have felt, for how long I have yet to learn. And, if I am being honest am not ready to know because it will put me down a hole I don’t want to go down. For, I would most likely never come out of it.
Perhaps with time I will forgive you. Perhaps not.
Perhaps my son could have forgotten the things you have done to him and the things you have said to him. Perhaps not. Again, I will never know.
I fear that my son would have carried these scars with him for the rest of his life. For, someday in the future something will have triggered a memory of what you have done: a song, a smell, a voice…… and would have brought him right back to that moment where he was a vulnerable little boy who just wanted to fit in and be liked.
While I understand that you are young, I can assure you that I will never stop being the best advocate for my son and I always have been. I pride myself in knowing that I have done, and will do whatever it takes to make sure my boys are happy, healthy and safe. However, I will never again have the opportunity to hold him, kiss him and tell him that everything is going to be OK, because it won’t be.
What you don’t know is that Shane’s older brothers have had their childhoods stolen from them. That, no matter what happens, they will never be the same again because their brother is gone forever.
What you don’t know is that I cry myself to sleep every night. That I hide my pain from my boys because they need to know that I am OK, so that they can be OK. What most don’t know is that this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. That this is not being strong or courageous - it is surviving.
You will never be able to imagine the feeling of having to walk past Shane’s empty room, still left exactly the way he left it. His bed is still unmade and his water bottle is still on his nightstand. Someday I will have the courage to enter this sacred place, but not yet.
I will not feel sorry for you. I can also assure you that you may have apologized for what you have done, you reap what you sow. Oftentimes the most important lessons learned are the hard way. And, the fact that my son was a lesson for you to learn is something that I am not willing to forgive.
I cannot imagine how unhappy you must be with yourself. Kind people are kind. Happy people spread kindness. The fact you were capable of saying such cruel things only exemplifies how you must feel about yourself. But, this does not make me sad for you, or feel sorry for you. Because you are old enough to know better and how your words and actions effect other people.
I also promise you that no matter what happens to you in your life - you will never know the love that I will always have for my sons.
- Shane’s Mom
#endbullying #bullying #bully #shanesimaginenation#youwillbefound
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.