"I have a tale to tell...
Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well...I was not ready for the fall....too blind to see the writing on the wall..
A man can tell a thousand lies ...I learned my lesson well...hope I live to tell the secret I have learned...till then...it will burn inside of me...."
These were the words playing over the radio one night, 22 years ago as a young man steps out of his truck, leaving the door open. He leaves headlights on and the radio playing and steps out into the rain. As the song sings on he climbs over the railing of a rural bridge on a dark and stormy night. The river below was flooded and the dark water itself churned and raged containing its own hidden dangers below the surface. This dark and lonely place is where he has chosen to end the pain of what has been his life....to end the pain of knowing he is gay. This is the place he has chosen to die....
These were the words related to me from my husband about his attempt at suicide at the age of 17. I could only listen with heartbreak and horror as he described his account and think about just how close we both came to not being able to share our lives together. my heart could only break for the young man who was so full of pain and self hatred that he drove to a deserted bridge in the middle of the night to kill himself. That young man seemed so different from the strong, confident man who was sitting across from me telling the story of how he had tried to end his life. Though I believe that the young man who made that decision is still inside Jay today. He was only waiting for the chance to tell his tale. As he told the story I could almost see the dark water through his eyes as he spoke of the moment he threw himself in.
He told me of jumping into the cold water and letting it take him under. Of being able to see the surface, of seeing light and feeling at peace. This is the part that always puzzles me about his story....that peace. When I imagine myself in that moment, I picture panic and a frantic fight for air, but often this is not the case.
One thing you may not know about me is that I love to read near death experience accounts. I take much courage from them. Many people who have drowned...or nearly drowned report that once you let go there is an extraordinary sense of peace. But this is where the similarities between NDE's and Jay's story end.
After that moment of letting go and total serenity he has no memory. The Next thing he recalls is waking up naked, cold, covered in mud and bruises, and angry that he "could not even kill himself". I don't know why he decided to leave that part out in the video about losing his clothes and feeling beat up. I guess the water had taken everything away and knocked him around awhile.
He woke up further down the river tangled in the brush, alive...and very dissapointed. He had to pick his way through the brush to find his way back to his truck. When he finally, made his way back, he reports there was a "big angry dog in it that gave me a really bad feeling". he said the dog had "an evil feel" and that it really scared him. The dog snarled at him as he tried to get back in his truck. Now, not many people know Jay like I do, not much intimidates him, so when he says this dog scared him I had to consider that this may not have been an ordinary encounter. Mayby this dog was a warning not to try that again or the dog gets you...this time for good. At any rate, the only way to get the dog out was to throw rocks at it until it left...and before anyone goes on about the poor dog, let me just say that after you've tried to kill yourself and stumbled naked and defeated back to your car you are deserving of a little slack.
Fortunately Jay had some gym clothes in the car and was able to dress, but the truck was dead and he had to walk a very long way back into town to get help with the truck. I still do not know what anyone seeing him thought happened to him. But this is the river area and it has more than its share of odd events.
Jay is not the only gay teen to decide to end his life because being gay felt like a death sentence. Jay was actually one of the lucky ones, he lives to tell the tale...many others didn't. I think thats what drove jay to tell his story on his birthday this year. That young man that leapt off the bridge didn't have the capacity to see into the future and know the man he would become. He couldn't know that, even though life seemed so bleak then, that one day he would know happiness being the one thing he didn't want to accept being...gay. How lucky for me whatever force that watches over us dragged him to the rivers edge that night. How lucky for Daniel and Selena they have him today as a father. If he hadn't decided to live on that day and drag his bruised body home, none of us would know the handsome, loving husband and Father that we have today.
As for telling the story well...This was, hands down, the most difficult video for us to shoot ever. jay kept telling me to stop, erase what we had and start over. Again and again we did this. We looked kinda crazy out there shooting on that narrow bridge with Selena. I'm surprised no one called the cops. Jay was not happy with anything that was said and even after I forced him to keep going he still felt like he hadn't told everything in the way he had wanted. thats why I forced him to live with what he had, because there is no way you can give someone the same experience you had. You can't make them feel your pain as you felt it, your desperation with life, or the resolve it takes to end it. You can only do the best you can to tell your story and be as honest as possible. Its one of the more beautifull traits of human beings that we can all take different things from the same story.
He wanted to go back to "the scene of the crime" as it where to tell his story so that other young gay kids could know that no matter how bad it looks, you just don't know what life has in store for you. Jay had to learn that lesson by giving up, but hopefully others won't.
We hoped that telling this story would not only help a struggling gay person make the decision to live but also help encourage parents to understand what their kids go through....and how important your love and support is. because they do not need, nor will they ask for, your permission to end their own life. Our society, our churchs, and sometimes our families can make us feel like we are inately broken, flawed individuals by virtue of being gay. We get alot of messages that we are evil because of the way we feel inside or that we somehow chose this...what crap. Some of us deny it for as long as we can, others try "fixing it", a lucky few face up to it and survive. Its no wonder that we look into the future and find no place for us in it or that we end up hating ourselves. Those lucky ones who did survive still had to find the strength to get up every day and put one foot in front of the other until one day they looked up and their lives were totally different then those dark days...mayby they even discovered that being gay was a blessing in their lives...I know I eventually came to that conclusion. Having found that strength you will not give it up for anyone.
Its o.k. now Jay...you lived to tell the secret. I know that we have our bad days, like anybody else, but I love you with all my heart. My life is better for having you in it...I can't even imagine what it would be like if you weren't here...it makes me too sad to think about it. It may not have been your choice to live that day, but I'm glad you did and hopefully you have given others that opportunity too.