Sky, Fragile Fourteen

Terri Charbonneau

Sky was a difficult baby, an delightful toddler, a shy and sweet six year old, an amazing eight year old, and a fun-loving ten year old. By the time he finished 7th grade, he had many friends including a close best friend, his first girlfriend (plus a few waiting in line) and a long list of phone friends. Sky played the saxophone, loved the woods (especially camping with dad), and was an avid reader and a wiz on the computer.

In eighth grade, he was a bright and beautiful young man who already had lots of plans for the future: to get a scholarship (he was an 'A' student), to become an architect, to own a Volkswagen bug (I finally had to buy one for myself), to visit Australia (I sent some of his ashes). He insisted on getting good grades and was well liked by his teachers, though sometimes frustrated at the (slow) pace in the classroom. He was always hard on himself though, even as young as 2, instead of stacking blocks and laughing as they fell, he would shake his little fists at them as he struggled for a perfectly straight line. He feared his own temper and excelled in karate lessons while learning to control it. He was a natural artist with drawing skills beyond his years, though my favorite works are from when was young and made smiling faces on everything he drew, including the trees, houses, hamburgers and french fries! He was sensitive, not only when he was hurt, but sensitive to the feelings of others. Sky was conscientious and responsible, but a lot of fun too. He and his dad, who we married in triple ring ceremony when Sky was 8, used to play jokes on each other and on me!

We went to our first concert together -Tom Petty at the Gorge- in May of his 14th year. In July, he saw all of his cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents in a two week visit to the coast. He was his little cousins' idol, and my parents' first grandchild. They sent back glowing reports on what a fine and loving young man he was, how great it was to see him so grown up. He told my mom how much he loved Mark and I. Two weeks later, he had what we call A VERY BAD DAY. It was our Anniversary. While Dad was at work and I was at a concert with the radio station I worked for, Sky had some new friends over. They drank alcohol and then walked over to the mall where they were caught shoplifting. When security contacted my husband at home Sky was crying so hard that he couldn't talk to him. Security asked if Mark wanted to send Sky to juvenile hall, come get him, or let him walk the 5 blocks home. Mark thought letting him walk would give him room to gather himself, but after 20 minutes when Sky still had not arrived Mark went looking for him. The hospital called 3 hours later. Sky had walked to Riverfront Park and jumped off a bridge. He had landed on his feet, changing his mind before he hit the ground. His injuries were serious, legs broken, arm broken, shoulder and ribs, one of them slicing his lung, but no head injury. Sky couldn't talk, he was hooked up to life support to breathe, but he could communicate with eye blinks and head nods. He listened to CD's, his favorite was Tom Petty. I was given time to understand that it was just a mistake, followed by an even bigger mistake, made by my fragile fourteen year old, not suicidal, but intensely emotional and spontaneous.

His lungs were unable to heal and after 6 weeks, Sky died. I knew by then he believed in God and Angels and he was not afraid. He was surrounded by love. At his memorial picnic, a 'gangster' looking kid came up to me and said "you know, I was never very nice to Sky, but he was always nice to me." And countless young people shared stories of how Sky was generous, fun and always cheering them up when they were feeling blue. A once hardened nurse told me Sky caused her to remember it was okay to care about her patients. If that was his only mission on this earth, that alone touched many. He touched a lot of lives in his short time, and I was blessed to have him as my son. I don't cry everyday now, but grief still blindsides me. In return, I've been given lots of gifts, God's little miracles, and I see beauty in everyday things. I have a place in my heart for all teenagers, so strong and so fragile.

Sky Blu Charbonneau
We remember in a clear blue sky, his eyes
In a rainbow, his smile
In a lightning storm, his temper
In the twinkling stars, his laughter
And in our hearts, always.

If you lost a teen to suicide, know that it was a just a mistake, that they probably really didn't want to die, but that the emotions they felt at that moment were so strong they didn't know how to deal with them. If you wish to write, I'll answer.

Terri Charbonneau

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You can send email to Terri at: [email protected]
mail welcome

anniversary date o9-18-95
date of post 11-30-97
email updated 11-11-10

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW