Back on March 15, the day before Luke Nugent died, I wrote a post on Tiffany Shores' Facebook ...

Back on March 15, the day before Luke Nugent died, I wrote a post on Tiffany Shores' Facebook page on her birthday thanking her for being my best friend and thanking her for introducing me to a whole new world of friends I wouldn't have met otherwise.

Among the people I was specifically thinking about when I wrote that post were Jessica and Mika Nugent and that smart little fireball of a son Lucas, all of Carl Junction.

A funeral service for Luke Nugent, 14, was held on Friday before more than 500 people in Carthage's Memorial Hall.

Luke “chose to take his own life” according to his obituary, leaving a mother and father shattered and an extended group of family and friends wondering why?

Family and friends say Luke was bullied by other students, especially on the bus to and from school, but we may never know for sure what role that played in his death.

Just last Thursday I called Mika to see if he and Luke wanted to go out at sunset and try to spot the comet that's in the sky right now. They were busy, so I planned to take them out sometime this week to spot it.
It was the kind of thing Luke just ate up. He loved science and loved to talk science.

I had only really gotten to know Luke in the past year or so, but in that time, we had talked a couple of times about my hobby of taking pictures of lightning. Most people love my pictures, then when I start talking about how I got the pictures, their eyes sort of glaze over.

Not Luke. He wanted to know what caused lightning, how did I know where to shoot, all about weather. He knew quite a bit about it already, especially for a 14-year-old, but he wanted to know more. Then we talked about the sky and meteors and comets. He talked earlier this month about wanting to go out and spot this comet.

He was among the smartest people, of any age, that I knew and his mind was a sponge. And it was an intelligence cultivated by his special mother and father and a family of smart and creative people around him.

When you see a picture of a lightning bolt, the light is overwhelming. It is so bright sometimes it overwhelms the camera trying to record it. When you look closely at that bolt, there are intricate lines and patterns that show there is much more to lightning than just that  blinding flash of light.

Luke's life was like a lightning bolt. It was full of brightness and joy and light, everyone who was in the area saw the light and heard the thunder that was Luke Nugent. His life was also complicated and intricate and full of beauty and potential.

I'm sad because, like a lightning bolt, his life was far too brief. His life flashed into this world, left its mark, then it was gone. All we have are beautiful photos to remind us of the brightness and joy that was Lucas Nugent. And we have our memories of him, fond memories of those long talks, that winning smile, the cock of the head, that fedora, the chef's hat and costume, those Chuck Norris jokes and his disdain for eggs.

I'm so sad for many reasons, and among those is the loss to this world of such an enormous potential. I cry, in part, because of the discoveries that may not happen because this incredible mind has been snuffed out.

I'm sad that's he's gone and I'm glad that we were able to capture something of that essence that was Luke Nugent. And I hope that the bright light of that lightning bolt that Jessica and Mika and the rest of the family nurtured for these short 14 years can sustain them as they continue in their lives. Know this, Luke Nugent will never be forgotten and, like lightning, he left an indelible mark on all who met him.

We will never know for sure what pain drove Luke to make this ultimate and drastic decision, but we all have to look at ourselves and ask why, despite all the commercials and preaching and programs and policies that have been developed after other high-profile stories of young suicides, bullying is still not taken as seriously as it should be, and children still hurt so bad that they decide to take their own life.

Schools have a role in this, but there is more parents and families can be doing to make children understand that picking on their classmates isn't “just something kids do.” It's not acceptable for children or adults to make someone feel bad just because they're different.

Luke is gone, a great mind and personality has been silenced, but we can still help other Luke Nugents out there.

John Hacker is the editor of The Carthage Press.