Christine Gilson remembers every moment of her nephew David’s life. A colorful array of memories fill the space between two phone calls: the first announcing his birth and the last announcing his sudden death.
“He was very outgoing and flamboyant,” Christine explained, smiling. “He liked to have pink and purple hair. He just had his own way.”
David unapologetically beat to his own drum and the charismatic (if not dramatic) way he did so was what made him so endearing to his Aunt Christine.
Of course, such individuality usually comes at a price for teenagers.
While David had his own set of friends and seemed happy, Christine could sense that he was not having an easy time in general at high school. His social matrix became more complicated when he publicly made it known he was homosexual.
Through David’s friends, she later learned that he was often bullied at school and accused of being transgender. Despite rumors, Christine maintains that was never David’s lifestyle.
“In June there was an incident at school where he - I don’t know what happened at school - all I know is it was a situation that elevated to mental health professionals were called in,” said Christine.
Everyone attributed that incident as high school angst and David becoming an unruly teenager.
“When I talked to him about it I said, ‘David you really didn’t say you were going to kill yourself did you?’” Christine recalled. “He said, ‘No, no, no that was taken all out of hand.’”
And that was that. Until a few months later.
“I felt like if there was more going on he would have said to me, ‘Aunt Chrissy I need help, I need you to help me’ and he knew that I would have if he asked,” she said with tears forming. “I don’t know if he didn’t know how to ask. I don’t know if what he did was an impulsive accident. None of us will ever know.”
No one will ever know because of what happened later that year after school.
“I got the phone call as I was pulling out of the driveway,” she remembers. “[They] told me that David had passed away. And that’s it.”
In what she can only describe as an “out of body experience” Christine drove to David’s home and upon opening the door felt that time stood still.
David had come home that afternoon from school and a seemingly mundane mother-son argument broke out. David’s mother threatened to take his phone away if he didn’t do the dishes, according to the account Christine was told.
David huffed outside without saying another word.
In the short time between the door closing behind him and his mother asking someone to go check to see where he was, David had fastened a rope to a tree in the yard and hung himself.
At just 15 years old, David committed suicide.
“It doesn’t matter how it went, whether he really wanted to kill himself or if he really was just trying to get attention,” Christine said. “It was a tragic, intentional accident and that’s what I feel like it was. A tragic intentional accident. And I have to think that moment he realized he was in over his head, he regretted it.”
There was no evidence that David had plotted his death in advance, nor was there a note. As if the pain of losing him wasn’t enough, the family is haunted with questions over whether in his last moments he expected to be “caught” but could not get himself out of what they believe was an attention-getting stunt.
“Not being able to see him graduate and not being able to see him do all these wonderful things he planned for his life, is breaking my heart,” Christine said with heavy eyes.
Perhaps the only thing more excruciating than grief is her lingering guilt.
“I couldn’t care more but did I care enough? Did I do enough? Did I reach out enough?” she’s left wondering. “I feel like I did not but I don’t’ see how it could be any other way.”
Christine understands that those dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts often believe that taking their life will make life easier for others. She wants to make one point very clear: taking yourself out of people’s lives causes agony and is never a solution to difficult situations.
“My heart aches. I can not sleep,” Christine said. “I can’t spend a minute not thinking about David. It just absolutely sends a shock wave through the family and the community. The loss of this beautiful boy and everybody he would have encountered in his life is OVER. There’s no chance. There’s not chance for people to know him like I know him and love him.”
Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.