When I heard of the death/suicide of Chris Lighty, my gut response was, “Wow, I can relate to the pain that will cause someone to feel that ‘I am alone and I want this to be over and there is no way out!”

We walk around every day wearing masks. Hiding our pain and constantly taking in the pain of others. Building and building the hurt, never finding a real way to release, caught in a whirlwind of self-destruction. Some of us lash out at others, some of us lash out at ourselves, but very few of us find a way to get rid of the inner pain. It cuts like a knife every day, taking away your love for life.

I have so much to say, but I think you don’t really care! From politicians who act like they care about the death of Black and Latino children only until they get your vote, to people who have the power to change things and tell you to bring them 14 proposals in 14 different ways just to say we can’t help you, to a community that provides nothing for their youth and questions why they are so angry, to bills that exceed what we bring in and stress you to death, is anyone even listening?

Does anybody really care about that senior citizen who works hard all her life just to be told she has to buy more medicine than her income can afford–no food for you this month, sorry, and your sickness that we created will never be cured; about that girl who is 13 and would rather turn tricks than go to school because the “corny,” ” intelligent” and “peaceful” kid is a non-factor, they ain’t about “the life”; about the young boy who is only 11, packs a gun and feels this is the only way to be accepted, told every day he gotta “get it in”? Does anyone care about that parent who has to work three jobs just to survive and doesn’t have time to be home and raise their child and now the child wants to live like the people they see in music videos, on reality TV–or the streets?

What do you do when the pain takes over your brain, makes you go insane, bringing an end to a life that shined so bright, seemed like it never rained? The false images of society give life to the stories in our heads, and the stories in our heads make us believe there is no answer–our days cut short, our journey now defined by our ending! And you never had a chance to step in, to really be a brother, sister or friend.

Talking to me about the reality of things that brought my life to an end! You stood by and watched as my inside died, as my actions cried out loud telling everyone I was living a lie! You never had the chance to grab my hand, let me know there was really somebody by my side! Couldn’t you see the false interpretation of me? And now all you get to do is say rest in peace as I lie lifeless wishing my soul could really be free!

I am gone, the pain I could not bear, and now you wish for me to rest in peace, and I would have much rather you helped me L.I.P. (Live In Peace).

We must learn to be more compassionate, to slow down and find internal PEACE, so our life can be the light to help our children truly live free, extraordinarily and be consciously present for every moment of their life!

Chris Lighty, your energy/pain sheds light on me today when my own pain was oh so deep. I pull my mask back a little more on this journey to one day be pain free!

I Love My LIFE!!

Erica Ford is co-founder of Life Camp, a youth-based nonprofit organization.