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Family of 16-year-old lost to suicide calls on community to take action 

  • Surrounded by immediate family members, Alec White's mother Tina (right) reads the note Alec left his family during his service at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • Alec White's mother Tina (left) and sister Joli White (center) listen to stories of Alec during his service at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / staff photo)

  • A service for Alec White, a 16-year-old who committed suicide last week in Loudon, was held at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • A service for Alec White, a 16-year-old who committed suicide last week in Loudon, was held at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • Alec White's mother Tina (left) and sister Joli White embrace during the service for Alec, a 16-year-old who committed suicide last week in Loudon, at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • Alec White's step-mother Carrie James reads a letter she wrote for Alec during the service for him at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • A service for Alec White, a 16-year-old who committed suicide last week in Loudon, was held at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Mourners continued to gather outside even after the church hall reached capacity. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • Alec White's immediate family embraces during his service at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • A service for Alec White, a 16-year-old who committed suicide last week in Loudon, was held at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Staff photo) Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • A service for Alec White, a 16-year-old who committed suicide last week in Loudon, was held at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • Alec White's sister Joli White laughs at a story of Alec during his service at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • Alec White's sister Joli White (left) and Merrimack Valley High School music director Maggie Oswald sing "Fix You" by Coldplay during his service at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • A service for Alec White, a 16-year-old who committed suicide last week in Loudon, was held at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • Leila Pouliot hugs Joli Smith (right) after sharing stories about Alec during a service for him at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo

  • A service for Alec White, a 16-year-old who committed suicide last week in Loudon, was held at Grace Episcopal Church in Concord on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz—Staff photo



Monitor staff
Friday, November 10, 2017

When Alec White’s family addressed the crowd together at Grace Episcopal Church, they didn’t share memories or talk of losing a loved one to suicide.

“We as a family have a lot to say,” Alec’s mom Tina said, standing at the front of the packed memorial service Friday. “But we’re not here to speak for ourselves.”

Tina said the most powerful way to memorialize her 16-year-old son was in his own words. She read a note that Alec left for his family on the screen of his iPhone right before he died.

“I know this is so selfish and it’s not me who will be hurt by my actions, it’s everyone around me. But I can’t keep going through the pain of being here and being alive,” Alec wrote. “I will forever be grateful to those who tried to help me along the way.”

Alec had long struggled with depression, with multiple trips to the ER and hospitalizations in the last months of his life, his mother said. Tina said there were times when Alec seemed to be better, but there was always a lingering pain behind his eyes.

“The depression robbed Alec of his peace,” Alec’s stepmother Carrie said.

After Tina read the note aloud, the family stood and embraced each other for a moment in silence.

Wearing a black dress with a purple suicide awareness ribbon and one of Alec’s oversized blue and yellow flannels, Alec’s sister Joli, 19, hugged her mom and Carrie. Alec’s father Jeff, dressed in a grey suit with a Spiderman tie, stretched one arm out toward the three women and the other around his wife, Kris.

Light filtered down from a large stained glass window onto a black and white checkered skateboard, a bottle of Cholula hot sauce and a wooden box with a tree etched into it that Alec made for his stepmother. The box now contains his ashes.

His downhill skis were displayed facing each other, like the riderless horse after a presidential death, Jeff said. Draped over one boot was a ski pass for this winter that Alec will never use.

Those who spoke about Alec at the service described a boy with a quiet temperament, who walked on the edge of chaos and was “built on springs.”

Alec was known for being adventurous and a risk-taker. Once he learned how to do a flip at Granite State Gymnastic’s open gym in Bow, he started flipping everywhere – on trampolines, abandoned warehouses, over cars and one time even over his father’s head.

The family said they probably have more pictures of Alec mid air or upside down than not. Alec’s aunt, Kara Bligh, described him as a real-life superhero.

“It was an acrobatic show, all the time whether we liked it or not,” Carrie said, smiling.

One of Alec’s lifelong friends remembered years trick-or-treating with Alec; she would dress up as Annie and he was a dinosaur. Another friend recalled a time when Alec had single-handedly climbed to the top of the Hampshire Dome in Milford.

Carrie said she knows Alec tried hard to protect his loved ones from pain, but in the end his depression just took control. She doesn’t blame him for that.

“I’ve always considered how hard we work to fight our battles to be far more important than the final outcome,” she said.

The White’s friend Leila Pouliot said she’d lost two siblings to suicide. Although her family members were in pain for a long time, she said they never reached out for help.

“No one knew there was an issue before it was too late,” Pouliot said. “My advice to all of you is to please watch for the signs while (loved ones) are still here. Don’t look for signs when they’re gone and it’s too late.”

Potential warning signs of suicide in a person could be feeling hopeless, talk of being a burden to others, changes in a person’s sleeping patterns, extreme mood swings or an increased use of drugs or alcohol, according to material from the National Alliance on Mental Illness made available at Alec’s funeral.

Long-time friend Alicia Grimaldi said it’s easy to be unaware of all the people who are struggling with anxiety and depression.

“Please, be kind to everyone you meet,” she said. “Listen, and help when you can.”

Carrie said the family is resolved to prevent another family from the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. She implored anyone hurting right now to reach out and not bear the pain alone.

“Remember my face,” she said. “I am here for all of you as you have all been here for us.”

(Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, lwillingham@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @LeahMWillingham.)