A year ago today, an atom bomb went off in my community.
Our brother, our friend, our son, Paul Rheal LaRochelle III, died as a result of suicide.
Since that day, I have been attempting to write a blog about him, about his light, about his impact on my heart and my life and on every single one of us he touched, as well as about this experience of grieving him, and processing the impact of suicide, and yet, I still feel quite incapable of doing so with the depth and attention deserved.
But today, to help me process my grief, as well as to honor my fallen brother, I will try to just share a few words.
I met him the first day of 6th grade and we took exactly zero seconds to acclimate to our new found friendship, a friendship that grew and remained strong and close throughout the entirety of our adolescence.
In his earthly form, Paul was incredibly fun, uniquely quirky, undeniably hilarious, and he was beautiful. I have never met anyone like him, and I know I never will again.
In the year since his death, everything has irrevocably changed. The table of my life, the altar of my heart, was swept clear in the explosion, and I was forced down onto my knees amidst the ashes and the wreckage. It was a forced surrender like i had never experienced, at least not as palpably. A surrender to the utter lack of control we have over Life and it’s happenings, and a very clear revelation has arisen from the surrender that all we have any control over is what we do with the experiences, how we walk through them, and what we take with us from the wreckage to carry forth and build a new life from.
I had the luxury of living 27 years without ever really being deeply affected by suicide, and I will never be able to know that ignorance or innocence again. And even with all the devastation and heartache that I have experienced and witnessed in this past year as a result, I would never want that ignorance or innocence to lay over my eyes and heart again. Because suicide is the loudest alarm bell of our species, and I was ignoring it. The sheer fact that any of us, let alone the shockingly high number of us, consider or actually carry out suicide, is a wake up call to each of us that allow it to be so. A wake up call that says, “ALERT! ALERT! SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG HERE!” If we were observing any other species in the community of Life and saw them self-exterminating, we would know something was desperately wrong with the community. And we must courageously open our hearts and our ears and hear that same message from our own species in order to make sure our brothers and sisters that have died at the hands of suicide did not do so in vain. We must wake up, my human family, and each and every one of us that does wake up to hear this brings us all one step closer to healing this.
Every single cell in every body of every creature on this planet is motivated to survive and find optimal environment to thrive, so the fact that our mind, our very perception, is able to get so distorted in our everyday lives that it overrides the instincts to survive, is revelatory and essential for us to understand. It means we must, individually and collectively, explore what in the way we have been living cultivates a mind and perception that aligns with the natural drive towards survival and thriving and we must feed that, and whatever does not cultivate such a perception but instead breeds isolation and disconnection, we must begin, right now, in our own lives, in our communities, and in the global human family, to change all that does not cultivate a perception in which we feel the love that surrounds us and the peace that is available to us. For suicide does not happen because we are not loved or cherished. Paul was so very deeply loved and cherished by his family and his friends, as he remains so, and if he had been able to truly feel that and receive that and connect with that and know he was worthy of that, he would be standing on this earth today. But it seems obvious to me that for whatever reason, his perception at the time of his death did not allow for this, and when we are unable to feel the truth of how interconnected we are, even though our interconnection is inherent and true regardless of our perception, the experience of not knowing this is unbearable to the human heart. Those that die of suicide are not selfish and they are not cowards. They are doing the only compassionate act towards themselves they are able to see in order to alleviate their suffering.
The devastation of those of us that remain and survive the explosion of suicide, beyond the natural grief of death, is a result of knowing that suicide was and is never really the only option, and our hearts cry out for those we’ve lost that could not see and know that in their final moments of life, and we are racked with guilt that we were unable to show them.
I believe community is the answer. To suicide. To addiction. To depression. To anxiety. To fear. To hatred. To violence. And community in a deeper way than we have come to know it currently, for even the best parents or siblings or partner or friend are not enough on their own to truly return us to our true heart of love and peace. It takes a full, connected village.
I believe these things we have seen as the “ills of society” are not ills, but symptoms of a deeper wound that has been lying at the heart of our culture for countless generations now as we have collectively drifted farther and farther from one another and from living intimately together within true community.
Every human that dies of suicide, beyond the grief and wreckage they leave behind, also leaves behind a light that will guide us through the darkness. A light that can guide us towards cherishing our own precious lives more. A light that can guide us towards cherishing one another more. A light that can guide us towards cherishing the earth more. A light that can guide us towards a simpler, more interconnected way of being that doesn’t leave us questioning our worth and feeling empty, but instead reminds us of what really matters.
Paul Rheal LaRochelle III did not die a year ago. His body died. But we are only humans, and we derive much of our connection with and understanding of and engagement with Life from the physical realm, and so we long for you in indescribable ways, Paul. Our hearts break as we miss your voice and your laugh and your smile and your jokes and your hugs and the movement of your hands and your perfect skin.
And, you are here still. You are the light guiding through this. And while there is a hole in our hearts where you lived in your physical form, in some strange way, we also have more of you, because all that was in the way of your light shining as bright as it could and kept you in suffering is now gone, and there is some solace in that.
We have survived the bomb. There are deep wounds that will take a long time to heal. And there is still wreckage to be sorted through. But we survived. And we are carrying you with us now my brother. Each of us in our own way are loving each other with more purity and more truth and more presence now, because of you. Each of us are finding ways to carry your legacy on in our work and in our communities and in this world, which you touched so beautifully and continue to touch so powerfully.
Your family is making you so proud, honoring you in all they do, keeping your memory vibrantly alive. You parents and your sister and brother-in-law, your best friends, they are showing every one of us in this human family just how much we can endure with love and patience, and with a lot of help, even in the face of our worst nightmares.
I feel you with me always.
And I never stopped loving you.
And I never will.
Thank you for coming here to us Pauly.
****To every human being on earth: if you hear a voice within you that is contemplating suicide, please recognize it as an alarm bell. Stop everything else. Nothing is more important. Nothing. Not going to work. Not your prior commitments. Nothing matters more than taking care of your heart and mind and wellness. Stop everything else and plug into your community and ask for help, please. Help is available. Help in forms you have probably heard of, and help in ways you have never heard of. But it is available, I promise. Suicide is never ever ever the only option to finding peace. Peace and love and beauty and joy and fulfillment and community are available to each and every one of us, and if you cannot feel it or find it, please keep asking for help until you can. For if you are here, you are worthy of life. We do not have to earn our way. We are worthy of life, each and every one of us has inherent value, and each and every one of us is loved. I love you. Love brought you here. Love will carry you home when it is your time. Let’s not rush it. Let’s stay here, together, and help one another walk through this life.*****