to The Lost
Families write what they wish they could say.
Letter to Tyler:
My son... We have missed you so. Gone are the Sunday afternoon dinners/talks that we used to share. We dismantled the dining room because you aren't with us anymore. I miss your messy hair in the mornings asking what is for breakfast. I miss your infectious smile, your laugh, and I can still hear you in my mind call out "mom".
I wish we had removed you from that school. I wish we had known how awful it was for you there. It was our ignorant mistake to expect you, with autism, to deal with the bullying. We thought we loved you enough and that our support would get you through anything. I wish we would have known how bad it really was for you. The students did come forward after you passed. I know now that we made it worse for you when we went to the school. The administrations attitude was so horrific. We sued them to find justice for you. The judge did rule that the bullying caused you to take your life, but he didn't make the school pay for their inactions. The law isn't on our side. We thought that schools had a duty to protect you, but the judge stated that's just not the case. If we could only go back in time...
Since you have left us, your story has been in a film called 'Bully'. The film made it to theaters! We get countless letters, cards, emails, etc. from parents and kids across the world supporting you. You have saved lives!!! We even went to the White House to discuss antibullying legislation. Not much has come of that yet, but we are still trying.
We want no other family to endure what we have been through. We want no other student to experience the pain you endured. Your father and I started a nonprofit called "Everything Starts with 1". On our webpage, we have a student guide and parent guide to help parents and kids who have been bullied and provide them with ways to make a difference. We also have a school club for antibullying. I know that makes you so very proud. We travel to schools, organizations, summits, camps, and other groups/places across the county talking about YOU! We tell them how kind and compassionate you are. We tell them how you accepted everyone for exactly who they were. We tell them how very much we loved you.
Think back to one Sunday afternoon when we were having family dinner. We discussed which star we would like to have dinner with. You and I agreed it was Ellen. You won't believe this... but we were on her show, and she heard your story!
Mother's day just passed. It's one of the hardest days of the year for me. I ask Troy and Teryn not to even discuss that day. I know it's not fair to them, but they understand.
Troy won state for acting, and Teryn was valedictorian last year. I know you were so proud for them! They miss you like crazy. Teryn struggles with your loss. Troy is much more open about it. He has now asked to speak at schools to raise awareness.
Your daddy has had such a hard, hard time. He just wants to be with you again. He is running for school board in Murray County. Yep... he really is. He decided that it's time to make that school system better for future students and their families. I think it helps keep his mind occupied.
Embedded in our brains is that morning your daddy, Troy, and I found you in your bedroom October 17, 2009. We had nightmares for months and still do sometimes. That empty hole in our hearts can never be filled. All we can do is try to help others. We are working with great people to make that happen. Please send us a little help from Heaven!
I know you wanted "everlasting peace". I know that you have that. The only thing that gets us through is the fact that no one can ever hurt you again. Thank you for blessing our family and teaching us how to be better people. Yes, we will see you again someday.
Love you always,
My Dearest Brother,
I knew you the day you were brought home from the hospital on April 21, 1967. You were the youngest and only boy of four sisters. You were named Jeffery Lamar Melton by our parents. You were always full of mischief when you were young and even as you got older. I still can here your tiny voice asking us if you could go with us when we were going somewhere with our friends. I now look back on those days and wish I had said yes. If only we had knew what you were going through in the last two years before you took your life.
You were just like our dad and you would get mad and tell us that you weren't. You were head strong when you got older but you had a heart of gold. A smile that lit up the world. You were so smart and a loving brother and son. We would always protect you when you were younger and take the blame so you wouldn't get a whipping. You were spoiled but in a good way. I can remember when it was just you and me living at home and you wanted me to fix your breakfast. You were 17 I believe at the time and I told you No. LOL you said you were going to tell on me and you did.
There are so many memories that we have of you growing up and when you were older and a family man. You had a wife and two daughters. We would all get together when we could during our busy lives. I now look back and wish we had spent more time together.
Jeff, life will never be the same without you in our lives. When you took your life you took a piece of our hearts with you. I wish we had known what was happening in your life those last two years but we never will. We can only assume and question and ask Why! We never dreamed you would take your life . You were always so strong but in your last days you were hurting and we couldn't help you . I will always remember that phone call I received from our big sister and she said you had committed suicide. I lost it and we lost a Brother and a part of our souls. I'm so thankful that you were saved by the grace of God and that one day we will meet again.
We will love you always and forever
Your Sisters, Deborah Leigh Melton Sullivan, Tammy Melton Chambers, Frances Melton Francis, Angela Starr Melton Tipton and your Mom Terry Melton
It was a weird but kind of cool day. Had my first chemo treatment. Yeah, I went armed with my brave face, taking a devotional book and a printed page of positive affirmations. I was determined to spread my sunshine to others in need, denying that I was having any difficulty coping. I would be "strong" for others. I was going to hid my feelings of devastation and loss of faith.
As I talked with my "roommate," we cut past the small talk quickly and I listened to her story, offering emotional support... a comfort zone for me. But then she asked about my circumstances. I began matteroffactly telling her about the last couple of years, skipping over the traumatic parts and indicating all was well with me, no matter my circumstances. I am such a liar.
She asked about you, about the kind of person you had been. I started to crack. I talked about your sense of humor, your kindness and how you always looked out for me. She said, "He's looking out for you right now." Soon after treatment was finished and I was left alone in the room tears came and the denial slipped away.
I thought about the last two years, your suicide, the devastation and inability to carry out daily living skills, then the news about the Lupus and the subsequent kidney failure. Then it came to me: How in the hell did this happen? How did I wind up here? Yeah, I made some poor lifestyle choices over the years, but I was consistent about the water, fiber and exercise. I always bounced back from illnesses. There was no history of serious disease in the family.
As the chemo coursed through my veins, the hopelessness I'd felt since you suicide was amplified, that is, I thought if the Lupus doesn't kill me, this chemo probably will. And I was okay with that. I know I couldn't kill myself, but I also couldn't live with these circumstances. If this illness and/or the treatment killed me off, then good. I would be reunited with you. There is nothing left here for me. I am not afraid to die.
But then this voice in my head that came from I don't know where said: I want to live! I don't want to die! And you know, I really don't want to die. I just don't know how to make the pain stop. I wonder if that's how you felt. I can't exactly say I made a conscious decision to fight this battle and to win, but something deep within me changed. I can't just give up. I will at least try.
Then later, listening to the radio, I randomly heard a line from a song, "You found another home, I know you're not alone, on the night shift." It brought tremendous comfort to me., just knowing you are okay. I guess I will be, too. And yet another inexplicable occurred: I saw a hummingbird! He came to the feeder right in from of me and lingered. He would take a sip, look at me and continue to feed. It was so cool. I felt so peaceful, like you were watching over me.