This article first appeared on April 28, 2006 in Panther's Tale, Rosemead High School's newspaper
"Live or die, but don't poison everything." -Anne Sexton
He was a coward.
I know that such a statement will offend those close to Kevin Ho but neither political correctness nor grief will cloud my reason.
I have the right to be angry. His limp body hanging from the gate of the El Monte High School baseball field is the final image I will have of Kevin. Anger is the final emotion I will feel towards him.
I cared for Kevin. He was my student his only year at Rosemead High School. It was fun getting to know him. I remember vividly his freshman year in my journalism class, sitting in the corner of Room 16 along with our maniacal cartoonist, Justin Whipperman, and the resident narcoleptic, Lawrence Luu. Many were the day that Kevin and Justin would double over in fits of laughter when Lawrence fell asleep in mid-sentence. Kevin brought levity and wit to those who surrounded him, whether at RHS, EMHS where he transferred, or in his community of friends. He was intelligent, articulate and logical. But now he's dead. And he is the only one to blame.
"A suicide kills two people," wrote Arthur Miller, yet this is actually an understatement. Kevin's death has created reverberations that will last for many years. Through his suicide he robbed those that loved him. The love his family gave him and the friendship his peers gave him was stolen by a single selfish act. Kevin's life was not just his own; it was shared by so many others. He had no right to do what he did.
Most young people envision the aftermath of their own suicide: Your friends and family cry rivers over your passing; the boy or girl you had fancied bemoans the missed opportunity of a relationship with you; your classmates exchange sentimental stories about you; your parents are filled with regret for not showering you with more attention and gifts. In Kevin's case it happened in much the same way, with, of course, one terrible difference -- he remains dead.
Kevin's friends continue to leave comments on his MySpace page. They are a sad testimony to the pain he has caused those who loved him the most. His friends and family write to him as if he is either still alive or reading their words from Heaven. I am struck by the fact that for these suffering souls this is a form of therapy, something they desperately need to stave off the pain from the emotional turmoil caused by Kevin himself. I guess this is the same reason I am writing this now.
Personal problems did not give Kevin the right to hurt so many people around him. On her Xanga, a classmate of Kevin who shared a fourth period class with him wrote of the conversation she shared with a friend in the chaotic minutes after his body was discovered: "'Ohmigosh... I think I know who it is. It's Kevin! Remember when he left the classroom? He was carrying a rope and a white t-shirt with him.' Upon hearing that, a chill ran through my body, and I thought, 'Oh no, please don't let it be.'" Undoubtedly everyone is destined to feel pain, but no one has the right to "poison everything."
But that is just what Kevin did. He knew exactly what he was doing when he chose the middle of campus at lunchtime to kill himself. He wanted to torture the girl who had recently broken off their relationship. No doubt he was successful. But he also traumatized the friends that stumbled upon the scene. Let us not forget the teachers that are left with an empty desk in their classrooms.
The theme to the television show M*A*S*H is entitled "Suicide is Painless" and includes these lyrics:
The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway...
The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
and to another give my seat
for that's the only painless feat.
Yet suicide is not painless for the people who cared for that person. Clearly Kevin was haunted by problems in his life, but imagine the intense suffering of his mother and father who raised him for 16 years. Imagine the anguish of his sister, Paulina, who is left with only memories and things unsaid. Paulina was also my student. She was in my sophomore honors and senior AP English classes, as well as a staff writer, like Kevin, for Panther's Tale. Paulina is a vibrant young woman with a contagious smile and bubbly personality. But now she is in mourning, forced to take a leave of absence from UCLA in order to deal with the tragedy.
Leaving a comment on his MySpace, one of his friends was relating, as if to Kevin, the day of the carwash friends had organized to raise money for his funeral. She ended with, "It was for a good cause, and I had fun. Damn Kevin... you see how many people love you?"
In his "About Me" blurb on his MySpace Kevin wrote: "Great friends and family, ya gotta love them." Why weren't those enough to give you the courage to live, Kevin?
28 April 2006