While researching Angels in the Park, I met and interviewed hundreds of grieving friends and relatives. Many wrote letters and emails. None of these moved me more than the letters I received from Al and Kathy Faust who live in a rural area outside Cold Spring, Minn.

     The Faust’s lost their own only child, Brad, just before Christmas 2006. Brad’s story is particularly significant because of the detailed letter he wrote to his parents just before taking his life. In the letter, Brad explains — better than any journalist or clinician hope to explain — the pain that brings a young person to the brink of hopelessness.

     I recommend that you first read Al Faust’s letter to me, in which he talks about the close and loving relationship between father and son. So how did Brad — as do so many frightened young people — manage to hide his fears from those he loved most? And why?

     You will find the answer in Brad’s final and eloquent words. What drove him to despair was the belief that he had become a disappointment to his family and to himself. It’s a common theme I heard repeatedly from those who battled depression. Whatever its clinical explanations or biological origins, severe depression often comes down to one word:  Fear.

    A child’s worst nightmare is not that he will flunk school, lose a girlfriend, or even lose a parent. A child’s worst fear is that he will become a burden to others — a disappointment to those whose approval he desires most.

    I share Brad’s final letter here with his parent’s permission. They feel that Brad’s last words might help save someone else. I agree. The lesson of Brad Faust is that frightened children can be saved only if they reach for help.  And they will not be saved unless those around them — friends, classmates, teachers, family members — are taught how to reach back.

Brad Faust

July 27, 1985 - Dec. 23, 2006