Some of them enjoyed the evening by watching college football. Some hung out with friends at a party or at the movies. Some stayed back in their dorm rooms, working feverishly to write the two papers due Monday morning.
None of them anticipated how their seemingly typical Saturday night at the close-knit college, a midwestern Jesuit university, might end.
Because a college freshman isn't supposed to end his own life.
In the midnight moments in which the sirens neared and feet pounded down the dorm's hallways, the unusually warm and beautiful fall night turned to a stark and cold Sunday morning. As the sheet-wrapped body that was their friend was carried from the room, boys who were almost men watched silently. In the wee hours of the morning, almost-men who were yet still boys called home to their mothers.
And mixed in with the continuing deluge of disbelief and grief and horror will be the guilt.
One of the young men will wonder if there wasn't, perhaps, a clue he might have missed in his classmate's words that day. Another will regret not stopping on his way out that night to invite his friend along. A former girlfriend will struggle with the possibility that their recent breakup was ultimately devastating.
What truly drives an 18-year-old, or anyone for that matter, to suicide? Surely it's seldom one incident, or singular discussion, or specific experience. It's likely a culmination that leads to such a vast and overwhelming sense of hopelessness.
But it is that person's momentary and final decision to end their hopelessness which leaves others--many for a lifetime--with a sense of helplessness. It will continue to gnaw at the R.A. who discovered the body of a young man whom he didn't find in time. It will overcome the two people who, in the middle of the night, received the call every parent fears most.
If we can maintain anything in life, it should be hope. No matter the inner-turmoil we might feel, or the anguish we might be experiencing, the reality is that life, eventually, will get better. We will always rebound and we will always recover. If we only give it time.
Hopelessness is only temporary. Always.
Helplessness, sadly, lingers much longer, for those who are left behind.