Taken Way Too Soon

A life taken way too soon….

I don’t think we will fully understand why….
It will be 15 years this December….
It was a frigidly cold December day in Bismarck, North Dakota. I was gathered at lunch with many of my communication major friends when our friend Amber came walking into the lunch room. I could tell by the look on Amber’s face and in her eyes that she did not hold good news. She walked directly up to me and said, “Have you heard? Chewy is dead.” He committed suicide.
I was in complete shock. How could this young 23 year old man be gone? How could he no longer be a part of our world? What had happened to cause him to commit suicide? I had no answers…only more and more questions.
After lunch, I went to the front desk to work. The minute I arrived at the front desk I pulled upon the newspaper and turned to the obituaries. Amber’s words weren’t going to be real to me until I saw his name in the obituary section of the paper. My fingers fumbled through the paper and finally landed on the obituaries. And sure enough there was Chewy’s face and name staring straight back at me. (Chewy’s Obituary)
Since I was working at the front desk, I held back the tears. I didn’t want other students to see my vulnerability. The minute my shift ended, I ran back to my dorm room. I opened the door, slammed it shut, pulled out my photo album which I opened to a picture of Chewy from the end of the previous school year, and held it in my hands. The tears slowly began to stream down my face and before I knew it, the tears wouldn’t stop and it felt like all of the oxygen in my lungs had been sucked out.
I had gotten to know Chewy through the theater program at the University of Mary. I remember one time in particular when he showed up with bouquets of flowers for all the girls in the play. It was such a sweet gesture that is forever ingrained in my memory. I remember being at a retreat, tears flowing down my cheeks when he simply let me cry on his shoulders. He was the person who gave me the nickname “Smiley”. (For the longest time, I wouldn’t let anyone call me that. It seemed wrong to let anyone else call me that name after he had given it to me!) These memories of Chewy are the memories that I chose to cling too. Yet there was a side of Chewy that I never saw. Chewy struggled with alcohol and other addictions which is ultimately what probably took his life.
Trusting in those promises, we gathered in the college chapel to remember Chewy’s life. The day his funeral was held out of town a nasty North Dakota blizzard blew through the state, so it was good that we were able to gather together as a community to remember this young man. As we mourned this young man’s life, it was life-giving to laugh and cry together. I finally began to feel like I was getting some air back in my lungs.

Today, Chewy and I would be about the same age. I wonder what his life would look like if he was still here on this Earth. I wonder if he would be married, with a family. I wonder so much about what might of been. And then I am reminded of the words to one of my favorite Bible verses: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords (Romans 14:8).”

My prayer is that by sharing Chewy’s story and the story of so many who daily struggle with addictions, mental health issues, etc that perhaps at least one life will be saved. Will you join me in Suicide Prevention Week this week?

This post is dedicated to my college friend Michael “Chewy” Chewakin. 
May you continue to rest in peace, friend!

I am linking up with some of my favorites: Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Angie and the RaRa Linkup, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story:


14 thoughts on “Taken Way Too Soon

  1. Suicide is a senseless act of desperation by a deeply troubled individual that sees no hope. May each of us dare to go beneath the surface of our friendships and share each other's burdens and provide a beacon of Light to those in need.

  2. I'm sorry you have experienced this pain, Tara. Thank you for sharing your story and helping to raise awareness. There is hope and healing for anyone who needs it through the light of Jesus.

  3. Your story is powerful and I am thankful that you shared about your friend, Chewy. During suicide prevention month, we need to continue to bring an awareness to this cause of death that seems to be more prevalent. Praying for you as you remember your friend and for all those who have been touched by suicide in their own lives.

    • Thanks Mary! Chewy will always hold a special place in my heart. I felt like it was important for me to share our story so it could bring some awareness to this cause of death. Thanks for the prayers. They are greatly appreciated!

  4. Tara,
    Thank you for sharing! I'm still a college student. 2 years ago, a student commited suicide on campus. I did not know him- he was a freshman. However, I was an intern in our campus ministry office at the time; through my internship, I'd gotten to know many freshman– many of whom were friends with him. It was so hard on our community; it was difficult for me from the eyes of someone in a student leadership role on campus, as we both struggled to grieve the loss of this student and help the grieving students on campus. It was so sad to see this student whom SO many people loved and adored (he went to our college's campus school as well) feel that he didn't have a choice but to end his life.
    It's coming up on 2 years since his passing (at the end of this month). Through my own battle with suicidal thoughts, I remember with vivid detail the aftermath of his passing, and it reminds me just how deeply suicide doesn't just effect me–but this entire community I love. I couldn't do it to them.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I'm so sorry you lost your friend.

  5. Thank you for sharing Chewy's story, my friend. You honour his life and by telling his story like this, you bring awareness to the horrible tragedy that is suicide. People don't often realize what a deep effect suicide has on those it touches and even those who aren't in direct connection with the death. It's like ripples in a pond after a large stone has been thrown into it; they go on for a long, long time. Thank you for being courageous and inviting others to share their stories for this National Suicide Prevention Week. The more we share and talk, the more healing happens and the more deaths can be prevented. ((((((hugs)))))) Love you, friend!

    • Thanks friend! Suicide really does effect so many. It is indeed like ripples in a pond after a large stone is thrown into it. Yes, by sharing our stories, healing does and can happen. Love you!!! ((hugs)))

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