(2-17-2013: Due to some absolutely unnecessary hysteria out there over this poem, I’m adding this preface:
The date of birth I was given by a friend of Dustin’s was apparently incorrect. If anyone wants to give me the correct one in a civil manner without defaming my character far & wide across the internet, please leave it in the comments below. But hear this: I will NOT tolerate any persecution over relating to everyone the Dustin I knew. He may not have been the Dustin you knew. So if your purpose here is to rant and rave at me about this, please exit this page without leaving your comments. All nastygrams left in the comments will be deleted.)
For Dustin McCartney
(?? – April 4, 2008)
Had I known
when you sat at my table
or fluffy golden pancakes with syrup,
or when you sat on my sofa
and laughed at my jokes
and held my daughter’s hand
and watched movies ‘til midnight…
Had I known
when I drove you home at the last minute
so you could beat curfew
or when I called your mom to ask
if you could stay the night
so you wouldn’t get in trouble when you were late,
or when I loaned you my black liner pencil
so you could make yourself up
as the emo kid you never wanted to be…
Had I known
the troubled soul you carried
felt weary and burdened,
always let down,
always messing up
always left behind,
trying to change,
trying to hold on,
trying to survive…
Had I known…
could I have been the difference?
The mom of the masses
saw one slip through her fingers–
her lost boy.
May God hold you in better stead
than your comrades on earth.
We will miss you at our table
when we have fluffy golden pancakes with syrup.
Author’s Note: Dustin was my daughter’s boyfriend for about a year in 2004. Valerie has known Dustin since first grade.
On April 4, 2008, Dustin was with friends at the Maple Street Bridge near downtown Spokane. Drunk and whipping off items of clothing, he shimmied out on a beam of the understructure of the bridge. His friends tried to talk him back to solid ground, finally succeeding. While turning around to go back to the safety of the bridge, Dustin lost his balance and fell 100-150 feet to his death.
His death was ruled an accident; it is not believed that he committed suicide. However, the thrill-seeking, daring-do personalities give me pause to wonder why these kids feel they must risk so much – just for the adrenaline spike? To be able to feel something other than desolation? Or just because they think they’re ten-feet-tall, bullet-proof, and unbreakable? I do know that Dustin was dissatisfied with his life. He had attended church with his father the week before his death, and had asked if he could go again. I know in my heart he was seeking.
I cannot imagine the anguish his family must feel, because I sit here, the “mother of the masses,” and my heart is crushed. This boy ate at my table, sat in my living room as part of my family, borrowed my black eyeliner, made my daughter laugh and cry – and I have to try somehow to wrap my mind around the fact that I will never see him again. I can’t help but wonder, as anyone would in circumstances such as these, if my door wasn’t open enough; if I was not enough of a “mom to the masses” to invite his trust; if I had known his circumstances, could I have sought him out and prevented what happened? I’m sure the same kinds of questions are circling in my daughter’s mind as well. Her heart was filled with “what ifs” and “what could be’s,” and now she has only “never agains.”
These are questions for which we will never have the answers. My heart aches for his friends and most of all for his family.
Dustin, may you still have had enough innocence left for your name to be written in the Book of Life; may God give you the comfort we were somehow unable to offer; and may there be plenty of fluffy golden pancakes with syrup. I love you.
©2008 Sharon Gerlach