Where did I go wrong?
I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night,
Had I known how to save a life.
The Fray, “How to Save a Life”
Dylan Bueno–at 14, not quite a child and still not yet a young man–was buried Wednesday by his family. Five days earlier, he apparently committed suicide not long after he learned he would not be able to participate in his eighth-grade graduation from Newark’s Ann Street School.
Dylan’s funeral was simple and short. No church. No funeral Mass. Just a brief private service, mostly for family, at a Caldwell funeral home. Then a graveside service at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington where the family was joined by scores of his Ann Street School classmates who sang an anthem to adolescent pain. The verse:
“Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend somewhere in the bitterness and I would have stayed up with you all night had I known how to save a life.”
It was the same song Dylan himself recorded in a video not long before he took his own life.
The words to the song, among the few English words heard at the cold, wind-whipped outdoor ceremony, seemed so right. Earlier, at the Lombardo Funeral Home, Rev. Karl Esker from St. James Church in Newark’s Ironbound, opened his homily in Portuguese with, “Não há palavras para descrever….” (There are no words to describe….)
Rev. Esker led prayers at the grave, too, and, when he was done, that would have been the end but for the insistence of Dylan’s classmates to sing “How to Save a Life” and to open to the skies large plastic bags containing dozens of green, helium-filled balloons that whipped and snapped out of the children’s hands and dashed impatiently to south and east, back in the direction of Newark and home.
“Green was his favorite color,” said a friend.
After the release of the balloons, Ariane Bueno and Adriano Ribeiro, Dylan’s mother and father, hugged the Ann Street school students. Dylan has a 4-year-old brother, Henry.
Missing were representatives of Newark’s public schools, including his teachers, usually at students’ funerals. This was no surprise–because Dylan’s mother, in a dramatic Facebook posting, attributed her son’s death, at least in part, to the actions of public school employees.
“His mother, she didn’t want them here,” said one of Dylan’s classmates.
Ariane Ferreira Bueno, Dylan’s mother, is a community activist among Brazilians in Newark’s Ironnbound section. Obviously drained by grief, she said nothing publicly at the funeral. When Rev. Esker handed her a vial of Holy Water to sprinkle on her son’s casket, Ariane collapsed to the ground and lay, apparently unconscious, for several minutes.
But, a few days ago, Dylan’s mother had written a long Facebook posting in which she described her son’s depression and, while insisting she wasn’t blaming his teachers, she clearly was unhappy about his treatment at school.
She said the school had pressured her and her son and wanted her to accept medication for what school employees believed may have been an attention deficit disorder. Just a week before he apparently took his own life, Ariane said, school employees told him and her he would not graduate with his class.
Dylan’s mother contended the school–known throughout the city for its comparatively high scores–wanted him to be perfect:
“My son was beautiful, perfect, loved, intelligent, dear for all,” she wrote.
A spokeswoman for the Newark schools confirmed Dylan had been told he could not graduate with his classmates but would not go into details.
“There were issues,” the spokeswoman said, adding he was not the only child who would not be allowed to graduate. She would not characterize Dylan’s mother’s statements as inaccurate–or in any way.
The original of Ariane’s Facebook posting can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/bobbraunsledger/?hc_ref=ART-H7kkFeH0QeY0Klbb8IQBUsb20ptUPqepSIkpkxBra0uC97Yxe_5o0fp4D5sc3_Y
This is a computer-generated English translation of excerpts from Ariane’s post:
“My son has always been cheerful, playful, class clown. That he inherited from me. But there was something inside him that wasn’t right. Something I couldn’t take (away).
” I always talked to him about everything. I never hid anything from him. But he hid from me, that depression I don’t know where he started or why.
“He had a lot of problems at this school, Ann (Street), not (with grades), because he was doing (well) without studying and had high grades.
“He was very smart. But school wanted him a robot, can’t talk, can’t play, can’t make others laugh. They wanted to force me to give him medicine, medicine that would not be for a treatment of ADHD, but to leave him focused–robot, zombie, medicine that left him without sleep, without eating, without smiling.
” And I refused. That school put a lot of pressure on my boy, which I never did. I’ve always told him: Son, you don’t have to be the star of the class, for me it’s enough for you to have (grades) and pass the year.
“I’m not blaming school, but (it) contributed to his unhappiness. I wanted to move him from here, but he didn’t want it because he grew up with his friends, and he was going to graduate.
“He was discriminated against and left aside, watching his friends receive the (graduation) ring and he did not.”
The Newark Public School spokeswoman said Dylan had received his ring–but this may be a problem in the translation. Ariane’s comments could be read as describing how Dylan cried about his ring because, unlike his classmates, his ring would not signify his graduation.
“Last week they spoke to me and to him: that he could not do the graduation and receive his diploma and book.
“School rules? Yes! Our children have to be perfect to keep the level there on the perfect children!”
After Dylan’s funeral, his parents announced his eyes, heart and other organs had been donated to help others.
” My son,” Ariane Ferreira Beuno had written, “was beautiful, perfect, loved, intelligent, dear for all.”