I Want You To Know Daniel

Daniel lived next door to me. He was 16 years old and a junior at the local high school. He was a teenager filled with ideas, dreams, aspirations and adolescent insecurities. Daniel was also shy, sensitive and caring. He loved the out – of- doors and nature. To his neighbors, he was a very special young man.

David, the neighbor on the other side of our house, had cancer which was slowly spreading. In 1999 I was on vacation in the Caribbean when I was struck by a wave which left me a quadriplegic. Daniel was only a year old when that happened. As I struggled over the years to regain my quality of life, Daniel and I became closer and closer. He began to play an important role in David’s and my lives. As Daniel grew stronger, he began doing more and more for us. The doctors were unable to cure David, and he got weaker and weaker. Daniel did whatever chores he could and always found time to just sit and visit with him. David passed away in November of last year, but Daniel continued to go over to the farm and help out David’s wife, Gail.

For a person with quadriplegia not only do your legs not function, but your arms and hands don’t work normally either. Daniel became my hands as well as my friend. As he grew older he would do more and more. Early on he put up birdhouses and stayed the night with me when my wife was away. We called it adult sitting. He would come with me when I took my 4 wheel drive wheelchair into the woods and fields around the neighborhood. In an effort for me to return to hunting, Daniel built blinds out of snow fence to hide my wheelchair from the deer and turkeys. We both enjoyed these special times we had together. For the last several weeks he had been helping repair my 4×4 wheelchair. Just recently, we talked about what we were going to do when the weather broke, and I could get outside. I took a picture, intended for my website, showing him as he was drilling holes in the new seat pan he had just put on the chair. He looked so proud and happy.

The last picture taken of DanielLife is a struggle for me, but I never knew the depths of the struggle Daniel was going through. Over the last few years we had talked about the taunting, teasing and bullying he was experiencing at school. As a former special education teacher, I shared strategies I had used with my students. This year things seemed to be improving. Daniel was on the honor roll and he seemed more confident and self-assured. What we didn’t realize was after years of attacks, he was being driven into a desperate act to escape. Monday night it all came to a head and he lost HIS struggle.

Who has done this? A few, hiding behind the anonymity of social media, can text and Tweet whatever they wish. Can they not look and see what can happen? Will they not realize the full extent their actions, or are they already looking for another vulnerable target? I have learned that there are enough challenges and pain in life already. Why make it any harder for anyone else?

As I look out my window I can see Daniel’s tracks in the snow from when he shoveled, brought in wood or filled our bird feeders. With the coming of spring, these signs will melt away. But his memory will remain locked in all our hearts, minus the piece of our hearts he took with him.

…Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes…
Lord I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much.

Daniel by Elton John

59 responses to “I Want You To Know Daniel

  1. Katherine Barkley

    I am sitting in tears wondering where my sesitivity has gone, feeling ashamed. I had heard that a young man named Daniel had left us by his own choice, and had given the usual “oh no, thats so sad”. Rich, you have given me a person, a warm spirit that was alive with generosity and life, for me to grieve for. Someone that will be missed and thought of not only by the people he knew, but will be remembered by the people who know you through your grief and sharing. It’s so important to keep the message that we are never alone, and whatever we do or say to another human being can and will affect many many more people than we can imagine. We are all interconnected and life is so fragile, words can destroy. Rich, I am grieving with you and for your loss of a friend and companion.

  2. Very wonderful, thoughtful words. A nice tribute to a life cut short.

  3. i am so sorry for your loss bullying is way out of control ppl that bully should be jailed to see what it would be like all ppl are different but those that think yhey are better than everyone else u will have to answer to god, R.I.P. sweet Daniel we will always remember you kind heart

  4. So so sad. I can feel your pain. God put him in your life for a reason as well as God putting you into Daniels also for a reason. I am positive you brought him to a soft space to fall when he needed it. Thank you!

  5. Wow…What a wonderful tribute to this young man.. I was bullied when i was younger and know what he went through and it is a struggle.. So sad but so glad he had great people to lean on. And he was a great kid for being there for you to lean on…Fly high with the angles Daniel and hold your head high with pride….

  6. Thank you for sharing your memories of Daniel with those of us who were not fortunate enough to have known him in person. I’ve only seen two pictures of him but that smile of his says it all. He must have been an absolutely wonderful person.

  7. What a beautiful tribute! We sometimes forget what blessings we get from eachother, thank u for reminding us and for sharing your pain- Daniel would be proud!

  8. Daniel seemed to be a great young man with a purpose when he was with us. My daughter was diagnosed with an inoperable incurable brain tumor and she struggles everyday can only imagine what he was going thru.
    I pray his family and friends can find peace with this situation.
    Bless you for letting us all know the real Daniel. Sorry for jyour loss.

  9. Rich,

    Beautiful tribute. Know that you have touched his life (as well as many others) in ways you will not understand, at least for now.

    Strength to you during this difficult time,

  10. This moved me to tears. I was one of Daniel’s teachers when he was in 7th grade. He was a thoughtful and gentle young man. Thank you so much for sharing this. God bless.

  11. Reblogged this on Travis Simmons and commented:
    Gosh, it’s always so sad when this happens to people.

  12. Vicki Campbell

    I am proud to say that I had met that wonderful young man and the writer of this is also a strong and powerful man. There are terrible mean children and this must stop..Love Vicki

  13. Our hearts are heavy with the loss of Daniel.

  14. Thank you for sharing your own private memories and stories about Daniel. As a parent myself, my heart breaks that any child is that sad and they feel no way out. My heart aches for all family and friends like your self to have this awful tragedy. I cried while I read your story. What our youth is going through these days is out of control. Thank you again for sharing. God Bless.

  15. A wonderful tribute to a Young Man lost way too soon. When we purchased the land next to Daniels house two years ago It was Daniel that called Our house and asked if he could use it as he had for several years. I told my wife that I had great respect for a fine young person that would first ask and also enjoy all that nature has to offer. This is a Great Loss !!! I am sorry for All that knew and Loved Daniel…..

  16. What a lovely tribute…

  17. Rich, we’ll be thinking of you and Daniel. Lynne and Dan Pasquale

  18. Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful tribute to my cousin, Daniel, who I never had the privilege of knowing in such a full and special way. I have been thinking of that same song all week, too, and realizing that the world is so much dimmer without him. I know memories are a small comfort but you were very blessed to have him in your life. My condolences on the loss of such a special friend.

  19. Kelly tinelli

    Wonderfully wrote!!! We saw him at our office the Thursday before! I would love to speak to the people who had to boost there self esteem by driving Daniel over the edge! I wish my son would of knew of this he would of had something to say to these boys !!!! They need to be accountable for there actions! Our thoughts and prayers for family ! Dr tinelli and Kelly !!

  20. Connie Elliott

    What a beautiful story of a beautiful person….the world is poorer but heaven is richer…

  21. Absolutely beautiful. An amazing tribute to a young man that must have been a wonderful person. Thank you for letting the world know what a treasure we have lost to such a senseless crime.

  22. Beautiful tribute. So sorry for your loss.

  23. Nancy Gossiaux

    Thanks for sharing your friendship memories with us. I know Daniel’s dad and I know this has left a terrible hole in the hearts of his entire family.No one will ever know the extent of the torment he went through with the bullies but I pray he is at peace in the arms of the angels now.No one will ever hurt him again. God bless you Daniel.

  24. Very sad! I am sorry for the loss of a wonderful soul! May you and your wife know people are praying for you and his family! Our sincere condolences! Patty and Stan Bach

  25. What a beautiful tribute to Daniel! I pray that you find peace in your beautiful memories. May God walk beside you during this difficult time.

  26. This has to STOP>><SOOOOOO what are we going to do about it?????

  27. Rich … so sorry for your loss. It’s nice to know you were able to give Daniel some stress free and enjoyable experiences in his too short life. Love you Rich.

  28. Linda Stockholm

    This is a real tragedy. This could have been any ones son. When my son was younger he was bullied, and one of the parents I spoke to told me my son was TOO NICE. Wow where did I go wrong , raising a nice kid. I don’t what the solution is but I thank god my son made it thru the bullying.
    My son now is a strong self confident KIND young man.

  29. I found your blog through a Facebook post. I am so sorry for the loss of your wonderful friend, Daniel. My daughter was bullied throughout middle school. I was so grateful when we were able to move and she found friends in a new school and a support system. It angers me that such a promising young life was cut short due to the cruelty of others.

  30. Jayme Spearnock

    A beautiful tribute to a special young man, Rich, thank-you for being in his life and his friend. I can see he looked up to you. It breaks my heart that a person can hurt so deeply by someone’s taunting cruel acts. I believe Daniel is in heaven and at peace, and the people/person that hurt him are going to live with what they have done. Bullying is a sin, it needs to be stopped. Nobody should have to feel so bad about their life. I didn’t know Daniel, but I have cried for him and his family…Thank-you for sharing how great a young man Daniel was~Sincerely, Jayme

  31. When I look at his picture, all I see is a beautiful, young man with a heart of gold. What do the bullies see when they look at kids? I was bullied from grammar school through high school, and I can understand why he felt as he did. Bullying will never stop until the bullies themselves are held accountable. May the passage of time soften the sadness and loss of his family.

  32. This is one of the nicest things I have ever seen written. I’m sorry for the loss and pain you feel. I pray the people that bullied him think about him everyday. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  33. I knew where the story was leading before it got to the end and I didn’t want to read it. I’m so sorry – for the loss of such a kind and caring soul in this world. How I wish they would talk with us, let us hold their hands awhile through the pain. I’m sorry Rich for your loss, the loss of a heart and spirit that filled your soul. I’m sorry for Daniel’s family and his friends and the promise of a young man they won’t experience. I’m mostly sorry for the people who said such vile things to him so often without compassion in their hearts. In the end they suffer the most, for they never know the true and gentle love of a friend and companion.

    “Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky….”

  34. I shared your post on a private Facebook site that was set up for young people to openly discuss suicide, self harm, bullying, harassment. I know Daniel’s story will change a life.

  35. Ida Steenburgh

    I lived in a time when someone was bullying, someone pounded the snot out of them.Did not happen again. Now, kids can’t protect themselves from anyone.If they tell their parents, it gets worse.Brothers and sisters can’t touch the offenders. They will get arrested…Sorry for Dan’s family and for all the others that can’t cope. Oh , the good old days…………..

  36. Thank you for sharing your memories of a very special young man. My heart broke as I asked my daughter if she knew Daniel. As she looked down her social media, she said “yes, but I don’t think I ever talked to him”. It’s sad to think how maybe one personal connection to someone he didn’t know, may have changed his outlook on life. I wish she would have talked to him. I’m so sorry for the loss of a wonderful young man.

  37. Your words brought me to tears. I didn’t know Daniel, but I graduated HS with his father and I belong to the “club” no one ever wants to be in, the “my heart has been forever altered by suicide club.”

    I wish I could know how those who bullied him feel, do they feel pain, do they feel sad, do they even know if they have changed the lives of so many. Do they have any idea the pain Daniels parents are in? No, No one can feel that, only those who have lost a child to suicide can know that pain. But I do wish they could feel that pain.

    Thank you for sharing your words, sharing your pain. I have no doubt this may have been one the hardest posts you have ever written.

  38. I’m sorry. He sounds like he was quite the young man.

  39. Hi Rich. after living in the “Levernosh’s” house briefly before Daniel’s family moved in, I want to send my condolences to you. I knew Daniel only in the hello’s our families exchanged at school functions back in the day when he was a little guy, as Kathryn and Daniel were in the same grade. We now live in NC for a variety of reasons. It is so sad to think that such a terrific guy suffered at the hands of others. It is so awful that you have lost such a great friend. Words are hard for me to express right now. I could picture everything you wrote as I read it and see what a caring person he was. Again, since words fail me, I can only hope Daniel’s footprints (tracks in the snow) will be gently in your heart forever. Sincerely, Kim Gilhuly

  40. Rich, So sorry for your loss. It sounds like Daniel was a very special person and a blessing to you. I know he will be missed. He is an angel in Heaven now. God bless you all.

  41. As I scrolled through fb I stumbled upon this wonderful story that is very much reality! I was a former student at TI. Unfortunately I had some of those same struggles at school, but I am fortunate enough to still be here. This story is exactly what others need to hear, but are they listening? There comes a point in life when no more excuses and the parents and these children need to take responsibility. This is just horrific and it needs to end. As I sit here and count how many ” children” have lost their lives to such ignorance, the accumulating numbers scare me! There should not have to be a tragedy for people to face reality! For such a small community this is a HUGE problem that needs to be addressed now! I can only hope that this has impacted others the way it has myself. As the district worries about dress code or common core etc. I think there is a much larger problem here that takes priority over any of that, and that is called “LIFE!” Go back to simplicity of life which is love, honesty, and respect not only for yourself but for others as well!

    • Unfortunately, this problem is not unique to our local school. It exists in every school in the US. You are so right about the problems schools face today. They are asked to do more and more “non teaching” functions and the system is being strained. However, we must put this problem at the top of the list. No one ever lost their life struggling with common core. The anonymity provided by social media must also be addressed. Finally, it should be recognized the perpetrators of these action are also very troubled and need help.

  42. What a great tribute to a wonderful young man. I pray his family and friends will find comfort in the special memories of his brief life.I pray adults and teens alike learn from this tragic story to stop bullying and prevent the serious tragedies that follow. Oh how my heart aches.

  43. This was a wonderful tribute. I did not know him but this article let me see what an awesome person he must have been. So very sad to lose such an outstanding young pure hearted person. People need to wake and see what their looks or comments can do to people. RIP Daniel.

  44. Dorothy Heywood

    What a lovely person this young man must have been
    And how lucky you found each other. RIP Daniel
    Dorothy uk….

  45. jane montpetit

    as social media increases, so does the negative effects it can have on life..people are becoming less and less sensitive to each others needs and feelings, We need to learn to teach our young was it is to be human and the importance of having a positive impact on each other….we are loosing our humanity. This young man sounds like a wonderful person and the loss to us as a people by loosing him before he was able to reach his potential is without limits..The loss of this young man against his struggle is a loss we all bare even if we aren’t aware of it as individuals! Rest with the angels and smile over us all…

  46. Dearest Rich, You were so blessed to have had Daniel in your life as was he for having you and your wife in his. Your words tell such a wonderful story about how amazing this young man was. I pray that his family and all who lost a portion of their heart when he left this world will find solace in those precious memories. Blessings to you.

  47. Sharon crescenzi

    I knew the minute I read your heartfelt felt, moving tribute to a young man who left us way too soon, that it was you writing Richard. You alone could summon the support and unselfish love from a person so special. Without a signature I just knew. You always left an imprint on my soul! You are a wonderful man! God bless you!

    Sharon crescenzi

  48. I just found out today that my sweet, generous, adorable six year old is being bullied at, of all places, church. I don’t know what is going on with society, but it needs to STOP! I am so very sorry for the loss of your friend.

  49. I got to meet Daniel’s Mother and Father after the services at the Clayton fire station. What a loss to this family, a needless loss. If someone goes to the school teachers or whoever they are need to pay attention. They are way to young to deal with this alone and as a fire chief, I have seen it all and can’t explain to anyone what would make anybody go to such lengths to do such a thing. I have kids of my own and grandkids of my own. I don’t think I could go through what Daniels Mom and Dad are going through. I will tell you whatever I can do to stop BULLING, I WILL JUMP ON THE WAGON TO HELP IN ANYWAY I CAN. Teachers need to do more. I know if they don’t come to you, you can’t help. BUT WHEN SOMEONE COMES TO YOU LIKE I WAS TOLD THIS YOUNG MAN DID, AND HE WAS TOLD TO GO BACK TO CLASS, maybe we need to make some change of leadership at THOUSAND CENTRAL SCHOOL or any school.

  50. Rich, this is a wonderful tribute to Daniel. I reread it several times and it had a very emotional impact on me each time. Having never known him I feel that I know the person he was and the things he unselfishly and genuinely brought to you David and others. I can tell that you each had a special bond with each other which had only grown over the years. It’s becoming rarer to find a person, especially a teenager these days who thinks of others before themselves. For someone who was giving of himself to others when they needed it while facing hidden challenges of his own is a true testament to the kind of person Daniel was. He gave freely of himself and others benefited from the attention and kindness he gave to them. I wish I had gotten a chance to meet Daniel and spend a day with him. After reading this blog entry I feel that I have. It was beautifully written and I can feel that it came from a special place inside.

  51. What an amazing tribute. Thank you for telling us about this young man. I wish that bullying could be stopped and parents would step in and disapline their children when they see them bullying others. RIP young man God needed another beautiful angel!

  52. My heart hurts for this young man and all he went thru. Greatful that he had someone who loved him and that he loved. My son and I were talking recently about him being bulled most of his life thru out school and I have always worried about this very same thing happening to him. This hits xo close to home.

  53. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful person.
    I hope the teachers and everyone else at that school who were approached by Daniel asking for help never sleep another night!

  54. I’m so very sad that this beautiful young man is gone. I nearly lost my daughter to suicide due to bullying and it just breaks my heart that other kids are not getting the help they need. I thought I read that this young man’s parents went to the school for help and he simply wasn’t helped enough. Bullying is an INTERNATIONAL problem, and the fix isn’t the schools job, or the parents job, solely. It’s SOCIETIES job- WE ALL have to let it be known that bullying is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Parents need resources and ways to get help for the kids . Having an “anti-bullying policy” is all well and good, but worthless if it’s not followed.
    My daughter’s story, in her own words: http://losergurl.com/my-story/

    Wendy @ theAntiBullyMom.com

  55. This is a beautiful tribute to Daniel.

  56. Rich, we were away when this happened so didn’t realize what you and Marge had been going through. My heart aches for you both, Daniel’s family and friends, and most of all for Daniel. What is going on in the families that these bullies are coming from?

  57. I’m hoping Daniel’s mother might come across this article, perhaps there is hope that bullies are becoming a thing of the past?

  58. Andrea Shaughnessy

    He sounds like such an amazing young man. It breaks my heart that he endured enough pain to bring him to this decision. God bless him, his family, and you.

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