Below is a very personal letter from Colette King regarding the events leading up to and after the death of her son, Ryan King, on May 14, 2013. This letter was published in the Oconee Enterprise and Oconee Leader however those sites keep content behind a membership wall so I’m making the content of the letter available here in furtherance of her desire to spread her message about these events in the hope that her words might alter the course of someone else’s life so that they can avoid making such a terrible, horrible mistake.
Our Ryan was a happy, carefree, goofy, but loving 14 yr. old high school freshmen. He was one week away from becoming a sophomore. He maintained A’s and B’s, without studying and loved his soccer team. I have never seen him upset over anything more than a day. We had to be on his case a lot because he was a little too much of a free spirit. He would forget to do his chores daily, leave wet towels on the floor (everyday), and leave food through out the house. This was just the tip of the iceberg. It sometimes drove us crazy. It all seems petty now. His good qualities so out weighed the negative ones. He was so kind, loving, generous, funny, and full of life and laughter at home. Everyday, we said I love you and hugged each other at least twice….yes, everyday. He loved his pets and any animal that was in reach. He also just became really interested in girls and texting all the time. That’s when our long daily talks started to dwindle. In fact, just two weeks ago I had to take away his precious phone because he could not put it down. He was furious, but he had many chances to keep it. Instead, we knew we had to follow through with the consequences. He got his phone back, and he seemed happy again.
On Tuesday the two of us went to his orthodontist to get a new retainer. He loved the new building and joked with the staff. Afterward, we debated on going to lunch together or picking up food to take to school. We chose to pick up Subway so he could eat with friends at school and not miss any more classes. We said, “love ya” as he left the car. Hours later I went to the school to pick him up from soccer practice. I had an icy cold Gatorade waiting as I watched him search for his bag and check his phone repeatedly. Finally, he got in the car and all seemed normal. We came home and ate a salmon dinner and talked about childhood events and laughed. He then said he was going to the gym in the basement to work out. Again, nothing unusual as he liked to punch on his punching bag and do pull ups. As I was talking to my sister on the phone, his friend called on another line and said he really needed to speak to Ryan. In less than 30 seconds our lives would be shattered. After calling and calling, Ryan never answered. So I went down into the basement to search for him. What I found would forever change my world. I screamed and went into shock. I knew he had already left me even though I prayed the ambulance would just hurry and possibly bring him back. Oh my God, how could this be real, he just wouldn’t wake up. How, how, how, ….why Oh Jesus why, why ,why. My oldest son came running down as well as Ryan’s dogs that he slept with every night. I didn’t do anything right that night. I should have never let his brother come down to help. I should have never left his side. I should have stayed and begged God to give me just one more chance. I just failed in so many ways, now my sweet boy was lifeless on the ground. Gone, gone, gone…..
I know most families keep tragic things like this private, especially when that tragedy involves suicide. I know sharing these details are not typical. But quite frankly, I don’t care what anyone thinks of our mistakes anymore. I just wish to prevent pain in other families. We have tried so hard to raise a “good” family and ever mindful of what others thought. We were a little stricter than most families. We tried to do family events on the weekends so the boys would have less time to get in trouble doing things with friends who had little boundaries imposed by their parents. We went to sporting events, movies, camping, church and traveling. Even though our boys had personalities that were polar opposite, we seemed happy.
Ryan’s carefree attitude and general happiness is what makes this so confusing. We thought suicide is what happens to severely depressed people. First they may threaten it, then attempt it (usually) for attention, then maybe actually follow through. Ryan did none of those things. He just panicked over a bad situation and according to his friend “thought his life would be over.” We are still uncovering details to attempt to understand what could have happened in a short amount of time to turn so many lives upside down.
In the mean time, I am begging any family who reads this to sit down together and have a family meeting. Please let your children know that suicide is never a solution. Every problem, yes every problem can find some sort of resolution. Suicide will only cause waves and waves of torture and pain for countless others.
Now, here is the important part for you parents. If you want to avoid the blinding tunnel of pain we are in, then YOU too must change. I am haunted by the many times I over reacted to the small mistakes. Please hear me…. not all children are meant to obtain straight A’s or make it into an Ivy League School or even local college. Every child is not meant to be the superstar on their football, baseball, softball or soccer team. For the love of God, let them play sports because it can be a great bonding experience and exercise. Please praise their efforts and let the coaches tell them what needs improvement. Be a supporter not a critic. Please don’t encourage and want them to be a “popular” kid. Luckily, we never did this, but many parents do. Instead, have them search out good kids who will bring them up not down. Understand each child is meant to be unique and possess unique gifts. Who cares what your neighbor’s child has accomplished? You should care enough to nurture YOUR child’s gifts. Please want your child to search out happiness and success. Success without happiness is just meaningless. And please remember, just because your child seems always happy, you are not safe. Talk and listen to them everyday. Maybe reveal some of your mistakes and what you learned. Wise people learn from other’s mistakes, not just their own. If our children can see how we survived some of our ignorant childhood mistakes, then maybe they will truly get that they too can work through anything with a little help. Please have a code word, maybe count to 11, that was Ryan’s jersey number. Use “11” the next time you or your spouse is saying something you may regret or overreacting to a mistake.
Lastly, this is also very personal, but may again prevent regret if you do encounter some difficultly with your children. This is for the married parents. Do what you can to make your marriage strong and fruitful. Never use the lame excuse; “we are just not in love anymore”. Love is a verb. You must actively, each day, feed that love. Right now, if you are upset with your spouse, do something to make it better. Forget past mistakes and concentrate on rebuilding if you can. I say this because, I know that Richard was able 3 days a week to bond with Ryan at Crossfit before school. Each weekend they did fun things together and we tried to sit down and eat a family dinner at least 6 nights a week together. Our family was far from perfect, but I am so glad we stuck together during rough times. Richard keeps saying, thank God I was blessed with those bonding times with Ryan. I think that is why he can actually get out of bed in the morning. Marriage is hard, parenting is hard, and making sense of tragedy seems to be the greatest challenge we’ve been hit with. Please do what ever it takes to prevent a lifetime of regret.
Collette King (mother of Ryan King)