Marchant family struggles with aftermath of son’s death
Six weeks after Eric Marchant’s suicide, small day-to-day details of life keep the 13-year-old’s memory alive for his family and his friends.
His 23-year-old sister Shelly wears his wrist watch. His mother, Cindy, has to remind herself to feed the fish in Eric’s bedroom. Mail still comes to the Marchants’ home at the Lahontan Fish Hatchery addressed to Eric.
Sometimes, the reminders are too vivid.
“I threw away an unopened box of Cheerios because that’s what Eric ate every morning for breakfast,” said Cindy Marchant. “I still make out grocery lists that include his favorite foods.”
It was June 22 – a beautiful summer Monday – when Eric took his life, leaving his family to grieve and wonder forever about what pushed their teen-age son to this final act.
His parents and sister have made a painful decision to talk about Eric’s life and death. The conversation is heartwrenching, but the Marchants are motivated by the concern that someone else’s child will do the same thing.
“We absolutely don’t want to glorify what Eric’s done,” said Cindy Marchant. “But people need to know if it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone. Never in a thousand years did we even think we would go through this.
“I don’t want another child to do what Eric did. I don’t want any family to go through what we have,” she said. “The death of our son has been so traumatic and devastating. I don’t know if we will ever get over the guilt. We loved him so much.”
The Marchants want people to learn about Eric and the consequences of his death before classes resume at the end of August. Eric would have been an 8th grader at Carson Valley Middle School.
“We want to dedicate the rest of our lives to learning about suicide and doing what we can to prevent it,” she said of her family. “We need to educate ourselves and go into the schools and tell our story.”
n Two different worlds. The view from Eric’s bedroom lends promise to every dream a 13-year-old boy could imagine. His window overlooks the green fields surrounding the Lahontan Fish Hatchery which his father manages. You can’t see the Carson River, but you can hear the water rush by.
Eric’s world at school, however, was far different from home. He was the target of name-calling and teasing to such an extent that his friends wrote in his yearbook that he ought to stick up for himself more.
The Marchants feel that Eric was not equipped to handle the harassment he endured at school. He had a difficult time making friends and liked to spend time on his own.
He always was a very introspective child who loved to read and write, creating stories and plays.
“He wanted to be the next Chris Carter,” she said. Carter is the creator of the “X-Files,” Eric’s favorite TV show.
“Junior high school is very traumatic, but at the same time, I thought that might be a plus for Eric because he would be meeting kids from other schools,” she said.
But the name-calling persisted. Cindy said she offered to move Eric to Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School, but he didn’t want to transfer. He liked his teachers in Core 7-A and enjoyed the work.
“I tried to make sure he had the right clothes, just to give the kids one less thing to tease him about,” she said.
The closer the school year came to holidays like Christmas and the end of the year, the worse the badgering seemed to get.
“I talked to another mother whose son was picked on and she agreed with me. It was like the bullies knew they wouldn’t have anybody to pick on for awhile, so they had to get their last shots in,” she said.
Cindy Marchant said she talked with Eric’s counselor during the year, but knew her son – like most adolescents – didn’t want his mom going to school all the time.
“Eric wouldn’t tell on anybody, but a lot of kids knew what was going on. In his yearbook, they wrote that he ought to stick up for himself more,” she said.
Despite the taunting, Eric never wanted to stay home from school.
“Some kids can’t handle the teasing and the name-calling,” said Eric’s dad, Larry Marchant. “I wish the other students could see how they treat the other kids – the loners who don’t fit as well.
“Eric was extremely sensitive. He was very sweet and funny, and very kind and gentle. Despite the things that were said to hurt him, he never wanted to be mean. He had no skills to cope with this,” his father said. “The comments went right to Eric’s soul.”
Shelly Marchant said she hopes counselors, teachers and students will keep a protective eye out for kids like Eric who make easy targets and lack the ability to stand up to the bullying.
n Devastating aftermath. Another message the Marchants want to share with children and their parents is the devastating aftermath of Eric’s death.
“The world as we know it will never be the same,” Cindy Marchant said. “Everything has changed. I’m sure Eric wouldn’t want us to go through this pain. I don’t think when kids are considering this, they see the devastation they leave behind. If Eric had some idea of what this would do to us, he would not have taken his life.”
Some days are so black, that Shelly Marchant wonders “why Eric didn’t just take us all with him. Some days it feels like that would be better than living with this.”
“We cry and cry till we think we can’t cry anymore, then the tears start to come again,” his mother said.
Ironically, the Marchants felt as Eric matured over the past year, he was starting to come into his own.
“He was really starting to become handsome. We used to tell him, ‘Eric, there are kids who like you.’ But he couldn’t see the positive side of it,” Cindy Marchant said.
Better than anyone, the Marchants know how children hurt when they are teased.
“I’m not belittling their pain,” said Cindy Marchant, “but I wish they could know that it is temporary. What Eric did is so permanent. Any child who is thinking about this needs to know and believe that there is somebody out there who loves them who will be devastated if they take their life.”
As they replay the days before his death, the Marchants are mystified by Eric’s timing. The school year was behind him, and he had a busy summer planned. His father had purchased plane tickets for Eric to visit friends and family in Rochester, N.Y.
The Friday before he died, Eric finally got to see the “The X-Files” movie. His sister gave him a membership in the “X-Files” fan club for his birthday and Eric delighted in his membership card and the other material that was arriving in the mail.
“We’ll never understand the timing,” his mother said.
Since Eric’s death, the Marchants have been trying to learn about suicide as well as attending support group meetings. Cindy writes letters to Eric on the family computer, and she and Shelly and Larry are using journals to record their feelings.
“I go back over conversations we had and think this is what I wanted to say to him,” she said.
n “We feel like failures.” The Marchants go over and over the days leading up to Eric’s death to see if they overlooked some sign or hint of what he planned to do.
“We feel like such failures,” said his father. “It’s hard to believe you can live with somebody for 13 years and miss something as major as this. Maybe in time we will get past this.
“I hope Eric thinks we did everything we could. I hope Eric doesn’t think we let him down. We loved him so much, we would have done anything for him,” his father said.
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