Katherine ODell
There is a plus factor to life, always more to give, always more to learn.
Katherine ODell is a screenwriter, author, and speaker.  


thought for today


Adam's Tree and Choosing Suicide

“Adam, the heart is like the flame of a candle.  It can be blown out many times and still light again.  You can lose happiness and be in the depths of despair, but you will feel joy again.  Your heart will burn again as bright as ever, no matter what happens, unless you throw away the candle.”


Adam came to help me plant a Waterfall Maple in my front yard.  He worked most of a hot day putting it in the ground for me.  There were tree roots.  I had pointed to a spot.  He was young and never thought to ask if he could move a couple of feet this way or that.  I would have said sure.  But, he hacked at the tree roots with a hatchet until he made enough room for my little tree to root in the exact spot.  We were both proud when it was done.  It is Adam’s tree.  I think of him every time I look out my kitchen window.


I sent him home with money for the day’s work, and a food box with recipes.  He was a college student living on his own in a small apartment.


When we went to a family reunion Adam proved to be the perfect house and dog sitter.  My little dog is not easy.  She was abused when she was young, and doesn’t trust easily.  He sat down on the sofa to wait and see how she would do.  She jumped in his lap and licked his face. 


You have to know my little dog to understand why that is such a big deal.  The man who mows my lawn calls her “Killer.”  Another friend calls her “Cujo.”  She is only twenty pounds, but she barks fiercely, and will bite if you get in her face too soon.


Genie is a white dog with brown patches, and she has a pretty pink belly with big freckles.  I love to pet her belly. 


Usually when I have to leave her, I pick her up, and her pink belly has turned greyish black from nervousness, even in a place she knows and with people she trusts.  Adam got to keep her at our house, her house.  Adam was gentle.  Adam was calm.


When I returned to Genie and Adam, her belly was still pretty and pink.  I could not have had a better report if Genie could have written it herself.


We all liked Adam.  He liked our DVD collection with old black and white movies like Casablanca, Citizen Cane, Holiday, Mr. Blanding’s Dreamhouse.  He loved old black and white movies, especially Cary Grant.


I had not seen him since he planted the tree in March.  In May I heard from Jana, my daughter and his friend, that he might be engaged.  I was happy for him. Then I heard they broke-up.  And I heard he was going to the Black Lives Matter rallies.  What a sweet guy, worrying about the world, wondering how he could make the world a better place. 


My husband and I have been “sheltering at home” due to the coronavirus since a week before Adam planted the tree.


 Jana called me.  Adam was missing. 


When Jana went to his apartment, neat as a pin, even sparse, he had left his wallet and his will on the bed.  The will was written to Jana, and asked her to give away his things per his directions.  The recipes I wrote for him were on the kitchen counter.  Jana recognized my handwriting.  It looked like he used them often, and kept them handy.


There was no note besides the will.  His car and his car keys were gone.  Jana and a group of friends found him a week later after an exhaustive search.


Why?  My mind is in a whirl.  As an ex-teacher of college age kids, I have seen a lot.  I can conjecture.  I can mourn.  No one knows exactly what he was thinking.


This is what is going through my head.  At that age how much have they seen? 


He saw 9/11 as a youngster.  He has seen war in the Middle East.  He has seen our country divided and spewing hate from both sides.  He has seen injustice in the media in many forms and mourned for the inequality he saw.  He experienced a break-up with the young woman he wanted to marry. 


He also experienced a lot of love.  He had a brother, a father, a grandfather who loved him.  He had friends who loved him.  He loved music.  He loved school.  He loved planting my little tree and cooking new foods.  We loved him, and we only knew him a year.


My poor young friend!  He did not have the perspective of age and the many ups and downs in the political landscape people experience over the years.  They see the 1960’s they thought ancient history repeating on the always available news and think there is no hope.  He does not realize how much we really have grown since the 60’s, and how many people really do abhor injustice in our land.


What are we doing to our children?  When they see neighbor against neighbor and parent against child and brother against sister, they must think the world has gone crazy.  They do not have the life experience to know that COVID-19 will not control their lives forever.  They do not see that we have made strides since the 1960’s.  They do not see that their own happiness lies in little everyday bits of joy that are all around.  They do not see how resilient the heart is.


Adam watched the police armed and with full protective gear march into a group of unarmed people and start firing tear gas and rubber bullets.  There was a man there with a three-year-old little girl, bad choice on his part I know, but still.  He came to see the show and thought it would be peaceful in our little town.  It was, until the police stepped in.  The little girl was choking on tear gas, and the father was pelted with rubber bullets.  They were not even part of the protest. 


Was Adam hurt?  We do not know.  His last message was that he was going to the rally with many other students and professors from the college.  We think he was ok. 


I ask again, “What are we doing to our children?”  Adam is a grown man legally, but he is a child in terms of perspective.  He sees a world gone mad.


If I could talk to Adam one last time, I would say, “Adam I will help you.  Any of your friends will help you.  You are not alone.  You are loved.”  I would say, “Adam, this too shall pass!”  You will love again.  You will work again.  You will see our country at peace again.”  “Adam, you have a rich life ahead of you.  You will have children of your own, and a career you love, or many different careers over your lifetime.” 


I can see Adam’s tree from my kitchen table.  It is taking root.  I see its branches blowing gracefully in the breeze.”  I wish Adam could have taken root in this life.


“Adam, the heart is like the flame of a candle.  It can be blown out many times and still light again.  You can lose happiness and be in the depths of despair, but you will feel joy again.  Your heart will burn again as bright as ever, no matter what happens, unless you throw away the candle.”


With Love,

To Adam

Screenwriter and Author

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