“If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.” — Saya Nelson
My precious nephew Christopher Cole Austin died Sunday, May 31, 2015, in a Lubbock hospital. He was 15 and he was perfect.
From the moment he was born, Cole captivated everyone who met him. A beautiful, happy, round baby, Cole was always smiling and laughing and loving. His best friend was his sweet Golden Retriever, Rusty. Cole grew into a beautiful young man, brilliant and funny, still giving his heart completely to the menagerie of animals that trooped through his life. Gracie, Kuma, Reese, Soldier Waffles, Toby Cheese – even the feral Mr. Boogers – they knew that special love that can only come from a child.
His inquisitive mind, fearless nature and adventurous spirit led him outdoors. You could often find him in the pool or on a sled, skateboard or four-wheeler. He dreamed of learning to surf, and his agility and strength served him well when he visited the aquashop in Plano for his first lessons. He inherited his mother’s love of playing practical jokes, and was known to hack cell phones and to leap into picture frames unexpectedly. He enjoyed reading, playing games of all kinds and telling mildly inappropriate jokes. He was sarcastic and witty, and he had the kind of hair that would make even Justin Bieber jealous. He was gifted and compassionate, and so very loved. His little cousins cherished him and he never tired of playing with them. He had this amazing way of making the people he was with feel … special. If he ever looked at you, intently, and held you there with him in that moment, you know exactly what I mean. He wanted his people to know they mattered to him.
We will never know why Cole took his own life. His potential was limitless. He possessed a brilliant mind, and I loved watching the way he saw things around him. While other babies learn circle and square, my nephew dazzled me with the rhombus, tetrahedron, trapezoid and octopus. He was gorgeous, and I’m not just saying that because he was mine. He was a perfect combination of his father and mother, tall and lean with feet his momma jokingly described once as “flippers.” He excelled as a competitive swimmer and loved being part of the Midland Freshman High School swim team. So if there were signs that this beautiful boy who literally had the world in his hands was suicidal, we all missed them.
Though he was growing up, he was still young and impetuous. This one flitting thought — that his life was not worth living, or that we would be better off without him — has changed us forever. According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the third leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-44 years. Our own little community has not been immune, experiencing several teen suicides over the last three years, all inexplicable. Good kids from families that loved them. We all need to learn to be proactive. Parents, please talk to your kids. Tell them you love them and that their lives matter, that there is always a tomorrow and there is a huge beautiful life after high school. And I know that is hard to convey. The hormones, boundary-testing, big feelings and drama that is teen-agerhood is hard to see past. Learn the warning signs of depression and of suicide. Let your children know that is OK to hurt and don’t judge them. Just get them the help they need. Let your kids and their friends know that you are a safe harbor, they can come to you any time with anything. And tell your kids that if they think a friend is considering harming himself, to please tell someone. Kuddos to Midland ISD for offering grief support through Midland Freshman High School.
We take comfort knowing that Cole no longer hurts, and that he is reunited with Rusty. Our sweet boy did not die in vain. As an organ donor, he will help almost 200 people continue with their own lives
We are especially grateful to Midland and the West Texas community, and to the thousands who prayed for Cole across the world. The continued outpouring of resources, prayer, meals and grace has been beautiful and overwhelming, and we cannot thank you enough. In the touching words of his friend Saya Nelson, “Cole, if love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.”
See Saya’s video with Cole here. He has grabbed her cellphone and was taking picture after picture. You can see his little smile and her realization that this was all being caught in pixels. She wasn’t getting her phone back any time soon! I have found this video and her story so comforting this week. Please say an extra prayer for Cole’s sweet friends, they lost him, too.