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Rivers and Roads by Patty Inwood

We are almost at the end, friends, of what I call the Rise and Fall of Luke Inwood. If you’ve been following along then you know our main character is in a desperate place. It is March 2015 and there is not much right going on in his world. He is failing high school. He is being tormented with d-halls up the wazoo. Luke is not gaming at his usual level after being let go in January. He dislikes his job. He really dislikes his nagging parents – especially his mother because, well, she’s the one nagging all the time. His friends are all eagerly making plans for what happens after graduation and he is not. And thanks to the Addy and his anxiety, he is not sleeping and barely eating.

So, what is getting him up every day? What is motivating him to move forward? Turns out – nothing. He is hanging on by the proverbial thread because he has lost hope. He has nothing left to get excited about. All the dreaming and planning – just big idea bullsh*t that may never happen – is coming to a close because the crew is about to split up – each one headed in a different direction. But not him.

I am not quite sure how, but both John and I believe that Luke believed he was going to cross that stage with his friends in June for graduation. I don’t know if it was denial or plain misunderstanding of the dire straights he was in, but in March that news hit Luke like a brick. “I’m not graduating and everyone is going to know it.” I can hear that piece of information swirling around in his brain. Luke hated to look *less than* in anyone’s eyes and the whole world was about to find out. The King. Not graduating. He must have been scared sh*tless.

After Luke passed away and the police returned the laptops they had confiscated for review, John went through everything on them as best he could. One of the remarkable things he found was a single Google search at the end of March. It was called – How to Die like a Man. It outlined all the manly ways one might take one’s life: Gun shot, hanging, crashing your car. How to die like a man. My poor, sweet boy.

So here’s what I need you to know: Life is hard. Freaking hard. And we all know one of the things that gets us through is love. Giving our love to a few special people in our lives and receiving love and feeling like we matter to someone. But what also gets us through is hope.

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.” – Merriam – Webster

Luke had lost hope. There wasn’t one thing he was feeling good about and I can only imagine his anxiety and his Adderall were one big negative committee in his mind. And we missed it. We all missed it. Now, our Luke was one helluva good actor, but still. We knew everything was going wrong in his life at this moment, but our own life experiences had shown us that it would get better for Luke. He just had to wait a few years for things to change. Your twenties are a whole new world. He just had to hold on. The problem was….we knew that. He didn’t.

So what’s the moral of the story, you ask? Build the hope… for yourself and for your children. Maybe find the things that make your heart happy and spend time doing that – walking in nature, reading in a chair, woodworking, birdwatching, photography, whatever it is. Tell your children how important it is to pursue your passions and model that for them.

And friends, I am going to get a bit preachy here, but we need to change the narrative for our children around what’s important to hope for. What is the hope or the positive outcome you are showing preference to for your children? Popularity? College? What is society and social media pushing on our children as preferred outcomes? Might I suggest that it shouldn’t be their GPA? Or the number of likes on an Insta pic? Or the number of times you get invited to a party or whether you carry a Gucci handbag? Or whether you are a star athlete in your little hometown? Perhaps we should be setting our kiddos up to hope to be a good human being? What if that is how we defined success? I feel like Luke lost hope because all of the things he thought were important were not coming through for him -some he had put up on the pedestal to achieve; some, like graduating, we did. At the end of the day, he was a good kid with a big heart and that should have been enough. Sigh. Whether we know it or not, parents plant the seeds of what a child deems important; of the future, they should hope for. Be careful what you show them. #NotOneMore

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