The first time I saw you I was working in Gering Junior High. You were a scrawny little kid dressed all in black, including black nail polish and eye liner. I remember thinking, “dude hit his black stage a couple of years early.”
And then I got to know you.
We talked in the hallways between classes. You were excited about so many things and could never seem to settle on just one to be interested in.
I remember standing by your locker one day after school while you showed me your notebook. It was filled with drawings on how to make many commonly used items better. On this particular day, you showed me a drawing of how you made a more efficient system of heating a home than the Romans had. Instead of the heat dissipating as it would in Roman times, you designed a way to capture the heat and recirculate it as long as was needed. I’m not sure it would have worked, but, at 13, you were ecstatic at your accomplishment.
On another day, we talked about how you had taken three broken remote control cars and rebuilt them as one. Their bodies were destroyed so you cut up a gallon milk container and created a new body. When Paul and I visited your house, you took me to your room and showed the car to me.
We talked computers, programming, engineering, science, math, whatever the topic you were interested in. You always wanted to know how things worked, taking apart a variety of things to learn and understand. When I gave my old laptop to you, sure, you goofed off on Minecraft, but even then you were learning.
We talked about your family, your grandparents in Alliance, whatever you were interested in. You played with our cats, slept on our couch, and traveled with us. All you ever wanted was for someone to listen to you, to take you seriously.
You had your struggles in school, as everyone does, and we know the school ignored the bullying for 12 years, but you managed to get through. You still had some missteps, but you were finding your way as a young man.
It was a simple day, but climbing the Scotts Bluff National Monument with you on April 16, 2011 was one of the best days of my life. The trail is long, a bit strenuous. When you saw I was struggling a bit, you encouraged me, saying, “Come on. You can do it. It’s not much farther.”
After another three or four hundred steps, you started to feel it, too. You stopped, bent over and rested your hands on your knees. You took a few deep breaths and stood back up.
“We can do this,” you said. “We got this.”
And we continued to climb. When we reached a point where we could rest, we saw a sign that said you could not walk out any further and to stay on the path. Naturally, you didn’t. You climbed out to the edge of the monument and I took your picture. We laughed about sticking it to “the man” and breaking the law. I’m sure it’s something hundreds of other people have also done.
Our only disappointment that day was not seeing any rattlesnakes.
When you and Joe dropped by unannounced one day, we fed you. Both of you had easily traveled 10 miles over the course of the day with no food or water. Joe was nervous about being in a teacher’s house, but you calmed his nerves. “Dude. I sleep on this couch. It’s cool.” You stuffed your faces with Paul’s homemade french fries. After you had regained your strength, we piled into my car and I took you home.
I stood by you at Joe’s funeral. You leaned in and said, “Please make sure if I ever die that I don’t have a religious funeral.” I assured you that you would be at my funeral first. That was three short years ago. There was so much more for you to do.
We know you struggled with depression. We know you kept your feelings bottled up inside. We thought you were doing fine. You and your wife were on a journey together, heading toward new and wonderful adventures.
21 is too soon to go.
Why, Geoffrey? Why?
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also contact me. Your life is worth it.