Monday, 25 November 2013

Words Are Lethal; Bullying Kills

I woke up this morning feeling off. 

I couldn't quite put my finger on what was bothering me; I've felt a little sad all day.

Just as I sat down at my computer I started tearing up... what the heck is wrong with me? As I look down at my dock... it hits me. 

Today's November 25th.

Which means tomorrow is November 26th.

It's amazing the things that your unconscious mind just knows that your conscious mind takes a while to figure out. 

Nine years ago, I was sitting on the computer at my boyfriend Nic's house playing on MSN and watching the new Riddick movie "Pitch Black".

A call to their landline came in, it was my dad. He didn't technically know I was at Nic's, I had told my parents I was staying at someone else's house that night.

He called several times before we finally answered it.

I answered the phone sheepishly, knowing I'd been busted for lying about where I was. I was fully expecting a lecture on lying... his voice to be angry at the other end.

"Cassie?" he said, his voice sounded tired... and sad.

"I know I lied I'm sorry I'll come home right now" I replied hurriedly.

"It's okay, I'm not mad. But I have something to tell you and you might want to sit down" I could barely hear him, he was talking so quietly.

I laughed a little, wondering what was going on. "Josh is dead". My heart dropped. "What do you mean?" I whispered, thinking he meant my younger brother. 

"A call went out today about a suicide victim on Scotchmere just outside of Strathroy. Your friend hung himself".

I collapsed. Sobbing uncontrollably and the rest is a blur.

In the coming days I got in touch with a few friends from "back home" about what happened via MSN. 

It was no secret Josh was being bullied in high school, but I don't think any of us knew the severity of it until after it was too late. 

Josh was a happy kid, quirky, funny, and loving if you were his friend. I can still hear his "baby voice" he'd use when talking down to you. There were eighteen of us in grade school that were "our age" (born in 1989), the number fluctuated as people moved in or away over the years but stayed pretty consistent. I attended Metcalfe for grades 5, 6, 7 and 8. Josh was one of my first friends as he lived right around the corner. For the first two years living there Josh, Sarah, Candice and Chantal were my "besties", their older siblings were all friends and I lived on the same block as the first three. We'd bike to school together, play after school, ride the bus together. 

I was essentially joining the group as I was the "new girl". My first friend upon moving was Sarah M, but she wasn't very popular, so once I figured that out I stopped talking to her and played with the "cool kids", grade school bullying at it's finest. I guess that's probably where it all started. 

I was also really good friends with this kid Matt, he was tiny and scrawny and we used to pick on him a lot, his mom was the Boyscout leader and since my brother was in beavers and cubs with his brother, we saw each other a lot. I don't feel like talking about Matthew right now though... Maybe in 8 years. 

Josh was made fun of a lot at Metcalfe because his closest friends were girls and he was an "artsy" kid; even as a kid his drawings were phenomenal. I'd always have him help me with my art class stuff because I was artistically challenged. He was also really fast and won triple jump and the 100m dash for our age every year at track and field, and kicked my ass at cross-country.

I guess as he hit high school it got a lot worse. He was "gay" because of his sensitiveness and art skills. He was made fun of relentlessly in the halls, classrooms and at home through MySpace and MSN. He just couldn't escape it.

Then on November 26th 2004, he hung himself from the tree in his yard.

His father had to cut him down. 

I can still remember the funeral as if it was yesterday, the church was so packed, almost three full busloads of kids from his high school came. 

I was sitting in one of the back rows with a few girls I went to that school with, wondering how if he had that many friends... he felt so low and down that he had to kill himself. Where were all of the people that filled the church when he needed them? Where was I?

We were all so caught up in our every day lives that we couldn't see someone we cared so much about struggling, we weren't there when he needed us.

I've always felt a little responsible, because I wasn't there for him. 

When I moved after grade 8 my friendships with everyone I had grown up with were strained, we didn't have things like Facebook back then. It wasn't as easy to get in touch, we couldn't text and our internet was dial-up.

I know it wasn't my fault, in the end his choices were his. But I can't help feeling guilty for being so wrapped up in myself that I couldn't see someone I was once so close to struggling.

After Josh died I started a group within my school called Teens Against Bullying, and I started speaking out at schools about bullying and how serious it was. I adopted the slogan "Words are Lethal and Bullying Kills" that his father had said to a local newspaper in regards to his son's tragic death. 

I started talking to "the dirty kids" and befriending the people I thought looked lonely. I tried making everyone feel included when I did things and started going out of my way to talk to people I'd lost touch with and mended bridges with those that I had burned. I even went as far as painting a mural with a few of my friends in the English hall advocating anti-bullying and how serious words can hurt someone.

Before Josh killed himself I would cut myself all the time because I was having a hard time dealing with how a certain group of girls at my high school treated me. I skipped my math and english classes every day just so I wouldn't have to see them; which in turn led to me failing both classes and repeating them in grade 10.

We moved from Strathroy because I refused to go to high school there as I was afraid of a few people and thought they'd be mean to me. So after two months of massive temper tantrums and running away I convinced my family to move North.

When we moved we moved into our family cottage. It had no road or running water at the time since we were putting an addition and full basement onto it. I had to wash my hair in the lake and shower at our friends place a few doors down. I had to take a boat to my bus stop and had to wear a floater suit to school.

The girls had a heyday with it, I was a "dirty dyke" for awhile. Then just one of the dirty hick kids because I didn't wear "classy clothes" and my hair was always messy. High school was pretty much a living nightmare for me and I was grateful to get out. Over the past few years I've been approached by a few girls, that were extremely nasty, who apologized for what they did. One actually came to me in tears at a bar one night saying sorry for everything she did stating "you didn't deserve it and I am so sorry".

I don't feel like kids realize how serious their words and actions are towards one another. 

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" is such a commonly thought saying; but how true is it?

There's a few songs that I listened to relentlessly after Josh passed away that really made me want to make a difference and show people how serious bullying can be. To teach people that each and every action we make does have a consequence... you never know how something you say can affect someone.

On another level, Josh's death had an everlasting affect on me. As I too was battling depression and was self-harming.... I felt alone... like no one loved me or cared about me. But as I looked around the church on the day of his funeral... I saw over a hundred people crowded in... crying, holding each other... I realized that Josh probably felt the same way I was feeling... and look at everyone who came out to pay their respects...

It's days like today that just make me sit back and think about everything I've ever said to anyone. Things I've said out of anger or frustration, hurtful things. Hurtful actions I've done onto others; stuff I'm not proud of. 

I always visit Josh on the anniversary of his death and his birthday... bringing him yellow roses as a symbol of ever-lasting love and friendship... as I did on the day of his funeral... It never gets easy, I still cry sometimes... I love this quote by Rose Kennedy:

"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone." 

It doesn't feel as though it's been nine years, I can remember it like it was yesterday. I have that painful knot in my stomach as I type this with tears in my eyes  I can still hear his laugh, silly voices or how he'd always say "kep" instead of "okay". This will be the first year I don't travel to Strathroy to lay flowers on his grave... but my grandmother was kind enough to agree to do so for me. It surprised me that I could give her exact directions to the location of his grave, including the number of rows up it was from the front gates. 

I realize that a big part of me being able to move on from his untimely death, and the meaning behind it, is to forgive those who I've felt contributed to it. 

The bible speaks on forgiving others in Ephesians 4:31-32

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

There was one individual that the majority of the blame was placed on, and I've had a lot of hate in my heart towards him over the years. 

I spent the time today locating him on Facebook.

I wrote him a message on Facebook telling him that I no longer hold any negative feelings towards him. 

He responded and we talked for a bit, it was enlightening hearing his side of things.

I'm not placing the blame on him, or any one person.... I believe that collectively... everyone involved in Joshua's life played a part in his circumstances. As William Burroughs said:

“There are no innocent bystanders ... what are they doing there in the first place?”

But in the end.... the choices were his to make. There were people who would have witnessed the acts of harassment and bullying at school that did nothing about it... but that doesn't make them solely responsible for his actions. 

I think that we all need to let go of the grievances we have with others... and maybe even ourselves over what happened... and move on. 

We've all learned from his death... taken something away from it in one form or another.... Let's grow and become better people for it. It's what he would have wanted.... he wouldn't want us fighting, blaming each other or blaming ourselves... He'd want us to live our lives to the fullest and to do whatever is within our means from putting others through the same torment he faced on a day to day basis....

So let's just be accepting of those around us... let's just love everybody. 

This is dedicated to Joshua David Melo... February 5th 1989 - November 26th 2004.

Forever in our hearts <3


  1. What a beautiful piece and memorial for your friend! You are truly something special. Continue writing, you just reminded me of the power of forgiveness and letting go today. Thanks. A.

  2. Thank you so much for the kind words <3 I love you! You're awesome.

  3. Well I am really sorry to hear such a story, where people words can kill someone for real. I did experience such thing when I was in school I believe it started since 3rd grade until I was in high school, quite long time, but I was lucky enough for not understanding what does that act mean or named coz otherwise I may have ended up like your friend. When you have that strange look that scan you from top to bottom and u cannot find a reason for it, and when u find a lot of people deal with you like they are scared to touch you or even do not want you to ask them for anything, making fun of your clothes or the type of good you have with you , or the way you look like.

    It put me to start do doubt myself and try to see what is wrong with me or why I have all of that from those people, as long I left school in Egypt and went to have my last year of high school in USA. I kinda found the answer in such experience , even though I took my part of getting bullied from people over there but to tell the truth just few people who were good to me and took my hand and helped me while I was school I never forget those people at all. But ya the hard truth is if you are weak enough those words can kill you for sure or at least will not make you normal for long time. I really thank God that I did not understand or know the meaning of such act until few years ago until I did hear the word and started to look what does it mean otherwise I was going to be domed long time ago.