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meet zak

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“Would you notice if I stopped posting?
Would you notice if you stopped hearing from me?
Would you notice if people stop talking about me? 
Would you notice if I wasn't a part of your life? 
Would you notice if I was never part of your life?
Would it make a difference?
Would it make your life that much more better?
Would it be better if I was never born at all?
These are questions I ask myself every single day.. 
My answers never really change”

- Zak Thor

     I gave birth to my son Zak in Bogota, Colombia on October 12th, 1990. At five and a half pounds he was SO cute. I called him my teenie tiny tidbit. My family and I moved here to the States when he was about four years old. He was still the cutest little thing in the whole world. He grew slowly, I’m not sure if it was a delay or something developmental, but he was my bite sized boy. He struggled in school and ultimately needed to repeat the first grade. Already feeling different, I know this hugely affected his self-esteem. I noticed he stopped telling people he was from Colombia and no longer spoke Spanish. It seemed like he was trying to hide as much of himself as he could. His grades continued to suffer and he felt even further disconnected from the other students.

     He came home one day from middle school and told me that the football players had thrown him in the trash. He insisted it was funny and just a joke, but I don’t know. Things didn’t get better, they simply kept getting worse. He hated being so tiny and he tried as hard as he could to look taller. I can still picture him standing on his toes. It wasn’t just his height though. There were times he would go by different names: Zak Thor, Zakary Cloud, Zakariah. I watched him try so desperately to find himself. He wanted to be anybody but Zak.

     My husband Fred and I tried to help. We told him, “just be yourself.” We supported him in every way that we knew how. When he came out as bisexual we supported that too. We just wanted him to be himself and to see Zak the way we did. He wanted acting classes, so we enrolled him in some. He wanted a yoga certification and we got him that too, but it was never enough. He couldn’t escape himself. When he got older he moved away from our home here in Texas to live in Los Angeles. He wanted to write shows for Netflix. I was so worried when he left. I knew how fragile he was and that he would get lost in the shuffle.

     I remember when he would call home crying late at night. I can still hear the sound of his voice and his pain. He felt alone and told us he didn’t have any friends. My heart broke for my boy and I felt helpless. My son was so miserable and I could feel it even thousands of miles away. Things still weren’t getting better and on April 17th, 2017 my husband and I got a call from the Los Angeles Police Department. Zak had taken his own life.

     I never understood how these things happen. One minute my son was alive and the next he wasn’t. I wish I could just reach out and touch him one more time, my teenie tiny tidbit. After Zak died, my husband and I left for Los Angeles to arrange the body. Somebody had organized a farewell service for my son at the top of the Hollywood Hills. My husband and I couldn’t believe our eyes when we got there. We thought he had no friends and that he was totally alone. That wasn’t true. People from all over showed up to say goodbye. He had so many friends and people there who loved him. When I thought of my son, I pictured this sad and lonely boy, but that’s not what people knew. He was known for his laugh, and he lit up a room. There was an outpouring of love and support for my boy and I realized that everything was right there, the whole time, but Zak couldn’t see it. He refused to and now he can’t.

     My son used to call himself Zakary Cloud. When I am thinking about him I look up to the sky and say, “I love you.” I wanted to share my story, and his story, to help people. Sometimes, when you feel so alone you can’t see or feel the love around you, but I promise you it’s there. If you are feeling the way my son did, know that there is help available and people love you more than you know. Don’t wait until the only thing left is escape. My son had exactly what he always wanted but his sadness blinded him. Don’t let that happen to you, because you are worth it and you are enough exactly the way you are. 

Ginger Shirley,
Atascocita, Texas


If you or someone you know is in need of support, contact the Trevor Project for help.