What Sets Me Apart By Jack Landis (Age 17)

Jack Landis Photo (1)There are no two people who are exactly the same, both on the inside and out. There are people that appear similar; they seem to enjoy the same things, they act the same, and they sometimes even look alike. But no two people really live the same life, even if others might think so.  Instead, our past,  present, and what we strive for or have to manage is unquestionably unique.   Our past  has a critical impact on everything that we do, every important decision we make in our life, whether positive or otherwise.  This all became very clear to me this past October.

My family and I were attending funerals for two deceased relatives. On Sunday, the day of the first funeral, I was sad, of course.  A funeral is not a place to be happy, but I was not very affected by the funeral. I had not known him very well, so it was hard for me to remember him and his life.

But everything changed the following day. All of my siblings and I were waiting in the kitchen to go to my great uncle’s funeral, when my father walked in. He began to speak, in a tone so serious yet so frail that I had no idea what he was about to say. Well, what I heard was that my uncle was dead. At first I was shocked; I could not make heads or tails of what I had just been told. My uncle, who I had just seen yesterday, and countless other times over the years was gone? We all sat there for a moment, then my dad said that my mom had already left to comfort my aunt, and that we would meet up with her at the funeral. Yes. We still had another funeral to attend.

The whole car ride to the funeral was silent; the only noise I heard was my sister crying for a little bit. We got there, and like I thought, the death of my Uncle Matt only made this funeral sadder. Just seeing my aunt and her two baby boys made me want to cry. We made it through the funeral. Shortly after, our part of the family went back to my other aunt and uncle’s house so that we could all be together as a family. If I thought I was sad then, I had no idea what was in store for next weekend at my uncle’s funeral.

Sometime throughout that week I found out that my uncle was dead because he had killed himself, and that only made things worse for what I was feeling inside. I am Roman Catholic. I believe in Heaven and Hell, and one thing that gets you to Hell is killing yourself. It is considered the ultimate disgracefulness towards God, taking your own life that God has given you. It ate me up inside. Did Uncle Matt go to Hell? What made him so terribly sad that he just could not live anymore? Well my questions were answered at his funeral. The priest knew how Uncle Matt had died, but he also knew that he had been diagnosed with depression. The priest said that because Uncle Matt did suffer from depression, he was not entirely in control of what he was doing, and could not be held responsible for his actions.

After the funeral, I thought a lot about what had happened to my aunt and to our whole family.  I wondered what people would think of me.  Would my friends look at me in a different way?  Would the suicide of my Uncle Matt now always be in the back of people’s heads every time they saw me or my family? It was the first time I felt judged by others that I had known all my life. But, after much contemplation, I came to the realization that I needed to deal with this situation, no matter what people thought of me or my family.   Given the circumstances of what my Aunt and cousins were going through, caring what people thought seemed to be the least of anyone’s priorities, including mine.

What happened to Uncle Matt changed me.  Somebody who I had loved, who had been a part of my life, was gone forever, and he could never come back. It really helps me to cherish what I have right now, to never forget how truly lucky I am to have all the people in my life. To know that one day they will all be gone, and I will too, but that is not a reason to be sad. It is all the more reason to live everyday by loving the people around you.  Someday these people may no longer be with you, but you will never forget them because of how they influenced you to be the person you are today, and the person you will be in the future.


To read Jack’s post on Scholastic’s TeenBeing blog, click here!

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