Each ride-day the Light the Trail team will #Ride4 a victim of suicide to honor and celebrate their life, and to further healthy conversation about this important topic. If there’s someone you’d like us to #Ride4, please visit the #Ride4 page.
October 7th, 2017: #Ride4 William Barrett Payne (by Leigh Isabelle Larson)
Tell us about them…
We were best friends and neighbors. Our best friendship was special, and recognized by parents, coaches, teachers, and ministers. The football coach even asked me to be a watergirl for a few games because he saw how Barrett and I communicated and could boost morale for one another. He was captain of the middle school football team and won class favorite of our school, along with being a leader at his church youth group. We spent 5 days a week outside of school walking our dogs or going to youth group together, and attended each other’s sporting events.
Barrett stood up to injustices– he didn’t just believe in standing up for people, he actually did it, even at the immature and selfish age of 14. One time he publicly berated a teammate in the locker room for showing off a girl’s dirty pictures the teammate had on his phone, another time he saw a smaller-framed guy get cornered by some bullies and stepped in between them and dismantled the bullying. When a middle school crush broke my heart by saying some pretty rude and insulting things to me after giving me my first kiss (oh the drama and tears of being a middle school girl!), Barrett gave him a solid right hook to the jaw after school and told him not to mess with me again.
As big as he was (6 foot, 220 pounds in middle school), he was such a gentle giant off the football field. His favorite movie was Rudy, and our high school football coaches were excited to see how they could help this boy fulfill his dreams of playing college football. Everyone knew they had a friend in Barrett, and he was loved and respected by so many. He was a leader and role model for so many young boys, and he was every girl’s dream boyfriend. His soul was just good, ya know? Very pure, and way more mature for his age and peers.
How has your perspective of depression and suicide shifted over time?
Consequently, Barrett’s elevated social standing wound up being his downfall, because he didn’t feel he could admit his insecurities or open up about how he felt about things. He was the captain of the football team, a big dude who everyone loved to joke with and be around. When everyone thinks someone is ““solid”” and ““awesome”” and ““strong””, it becomes increasingly difficult to admit that at times, the person isn’t solid and awesome and strong, and they’re actually very human with very real emotions. Those bad days chip at a person, one by one until they start to blend together, until the pain becomes numbing and one loses their sense of self behind the mask they show others. Middle school is hard, emotions run high because we’re so hormonally sporadic. As a girl, I got to cry over boys and pimples to my girl friends, but boys typically aren’t afforded the luxury of the liberated feeling of emotional releases like that.
Since his death at age 14, I have attended four funerals for upper/middle class, white, educated, successful, popular males. Males that quite literally had the whole world as their oyster, males that had access to privileges and opportunities that people in other socio-economic groups covet. It spurred me to consider the way our society treats men and their emotional bodies. I became fascinated with religion and psychology and society’s impression/influence on male thought and behavior. I became a more knowledgeable woman in the way I approach the males in my life, whether the males were family, friends, or romantic interests. Instead of a dichotomy of masculine vs. feminine, I see that every person requires both to be emotionally healthy, that denying these very real parts of ourselves eventually leads to emotional and spiritual death, and in these four cases, physical death.
I am attending graduate school for a joint program for a Masters in Social Work and a Masters in Divinity with a concentration in military chaplaincy, after which I will join the Air Force as a Chaplain. I will be taking courses in PTSD and substance abuse and crisis management. In a hyper-masculine culture like the military, I hope I can evoke some humanity out of the servicemen and women who experience such darkness in war, and help them to feel those pains and vulnerabilities so that they may go on to lead healthy lives at home with their loved ones.
A small special way we can celebrate them on the road?
Tell your sons and daughters about the necessity of communication and liberation of emotions, that the ability to take off the mask and have vulnerable kinships is what makes us human and healthy. The only way to really deal with life is to feel life, the good and the ugly. And also, if you have access to a football, toss that around or watch a game on TV for Barrett :)
Is there a particular favorite song or band of theirs, or one you remember them by?
After his death, his brother took me aside and told me that Barrett confided in him that “Yellow” by Coldplay reminded Barrett of me, so that song is really special to me. It’s such a sweet and endearing song, definitely give it a listen if you haven’t in awhile.
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