I listen to audiobooks when I walk, and I recently heard Sue Klebold read her book “A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy”.
In my opinion, this is a book every adult should read. For me, it’s a book I needed to listen to. It was important for me to hear this mother read her own words about her son.
Some of my friends–because they were physically close to the events she writes about–have said they cannot read it. They may not be able to read this, either, and I respect that. Tragedy leaves scars.
When she introduces herself as a speaker at conferences, Sue Klebold says, “My son Dylan died by suicide. He was one of the shooters at Columbine.” As I listened to her tell the story of her family and her son, I found myself thinking one phrase over and over again.
She is describing the kind of family life I always wanted.
This book was written in part, she says, because a father of one of the students challenged her to. What lessons could she share with other parents about the things she had missed, the mistakes she had made, the things she should have done differently so that a tragedy like Columbine could be avoided in the future? How could she help people recognize self-destructive signs in their loved ones so suicides and murder-suicides could be prevented?
Oh my gosh, what a burden.
Yet, she needed to be relentless in seeking these answers for herself. She writes intelligently, relying on her journals, on interviews with health care professionals, with researchers and scientists. She discusses brain health, including her own, and she does so with candor. As the mother of a notorious school shooter, she was also a victim. Columbine was at the beginning of the 24hour news cycle, and for awhile, she felt she was the most hated woman in the world.
She is also, though, what many of us are–a Left-Behind. She is a survivor of a loved one’s successful suicide. She has healed enough be be an advocate for other Left-Behinds. It is a particularly horrible kind of grief we deal with.
For Sue Klebold, however, there will always be another gut-broiling layer of pain and to be honest, I’m not sure if I could survive it. I’m not sure I’d want to. There was Dylan. And there were all the people he and his partner had killed, injured, or psychologically damaged.
She writes when she realized that Dylan’s participation in the massacre was not a “moment of madness.” Walking by the river, I had to sit on a bench as I listened. She is the narrator of her story. I did not get the feeling she was acting for sympathy, nor remained unaffected. She did her job as narrator, but the knowledge of her role affected me deeply.
Six months after Columbine, she first viewed the videos her son and his friend had made while they were planning the attack on their school. She describes her shock at the very different Dylan on film, at his posturing, at their violent words and ideas. She had never met that Dylan. Her grieving began anew.
This is a courageous book. Necessary details of the story are told, in a way that seems honest and unflinching.
Were there signs the Klebold family could have paid attention to? She says yes.
And given the same circumstances, I suspect many of us would have dismissed them too.
From her website:
Today I am an advocate for mental health awareness, research and suicide prevention. By writing A Mother’s Reckoning, I hope to shine a light on these important issues. Through my Colorado public benefit corporation (PBC), Vention Resources, Inc., PBC, all author profits that I or my PBC would have ordinarily received from the publication of this book, after reasonable expenses, will be used to fund charitable organizations who share my goals and strive to address these concerns, including Mental Health America (MHA), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), American Association of Suicidology (AAS) and Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.
— SUE KLEBOLD