Finn Rooney killed himself on January 3, 2020 in the afternoon after school. No one predicted it. There were no signs. All that can be said for sure is that there was a flash of high emotion that comes with youth, and there was a gun nearby, and bullets.
This isn’t a story about suicide. It’s a story about a boy called Finn who loved to fish and play baseball and write poetry and embroider…and what happens to a small Vermont community as it staggers forward after an unspeakable tragedy.
Make comment at bottom of this page. Because we really want to hear from you. And we want you to be able to hear from each other.
An interview with Rob Rosenthal for How Sound, on the making of Finn and the Bell
My profound thanks to Tara Reese for her insights, her candor and her time.
Thank you to my friends: Amelia Meath, Tobin Anderson, Clare Dolan and Mark Davis.
I also want to thank every single person who talked with me for this show. You didn’t really want to but you did anyway. Thank you to Arron and Alleigh and Butch and David and Illia and Mike and Kim and Mirko and Alex and Mac and Allison and Dave and Jack and Dante and Bob and Ben and the Bread and Puppet Band.
To listen to this podcast is one of the most extraordinary experiences of humanity, of community, of life, of death, of loss, of belonging, of compassion, of mystery, and transcendence. My deepest appreciation and gratitude goes out to Tara Reese and all who spoke on these interviews. And to Erica for having the heart and soul, talent and experience to do this important work so beautifully and honestly.
Thanks for expressing it better than I could!
Beautifully expressed. About a beautiful soul.
So beautifully done.
What a kid.
What a community.
Bless his family
Can life be any more special, please let his family know how much we care. Thank you Erica this was very carefully and well done.How can tears not flow with an episode like this. Such bravery from all those who contributed.
Thank you for this.
This is so beautiful and touching.
This is a beautiful tribute to this special boy, his Mom and the community. It seems that Finn had the capacity to feel deeply and this world can be overwhelming. He made a difference to people, what a gift. The bell, I love the bell and I wish I grew up in a town with a special bell. What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing ❤️.
Wow. Nourishing in the worst and best of ways.
This is one for the archives of Hardwick and Greensboro, if not Vermont. It must not be lost. It’s so touching , the individuals , the disparate cultures in adjacent towns that in the end find in their humanity a way to come together to make sense of this senseless end of life. As a Vermonter it makes me proud. Thank you, Erica , for this fine effort.
I truly appreciate the care with which this too brief life of a fine young man was presented. Thank you. I find myself deeply saddened while simultaneously powerfully heartened by the loving resilient honest voices within. One of the last things my mother said through a computer voice she typed out having lost her voice to ALS was “forgive everyone “. I would only add to that what this story emphasizes, celebrate everyone. I hope Tara and her family are blessed with the sounds of baseballs and bells for years to come.
Thank you, Erica. His story couldn’t be told any better.
Hard to explain how much it means to me that you approve Mac. Honestly.
Thank you Erica for your mastery in sharing Finn’s story with the world.
Eternal peace for his family and all who knew him
So beautiful that you connected all of us with this story. I sobbed along with everyone, and felt their loss, and was amazed at their clarity, and how they found just the right words. I loved the ’83 truck, and the barely audible guys talking about the foxes that got their chickens (? I guess they were chickens). You give us so much, Erica. Thank you. Love to Finn’s family and community and beyond.
I’m so glad you heard the foxes and the chickens. I was standing behind them and could NOT resist recording this conversation. Just fricking beautiful. Thank you so much Beverly…
This story reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to the babies “God Damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
I cried just from looking at the images, and reading the text, before I even listened to the story. I want express my gratitude to you, Erica, and to all the people who made this show possible.
Thank you Tristan…from across the world…my alltime favorite Tasmanian…
Thank you, Tara, Finn’s Dad (heard for a moment), and Erica- I am
So moved by this story, wondering how I am just hearing Finn’s
Story now for the first time. I also
Wonder about the one seemingly provocative, breasted picture- so outside his
Norm, yet included in these pics.
I believe his mom had dragged him out of bed to watch the royal wedding and eat crumpets…
Beautiful story. I remember walking down those halls of Hazen when I was in school and seeing Finn quite a few times. Even if I wasn’t close to him, at least I got to meet him in person, and now hear his story…his legacy. Thank you Erica, and my condolences to family, friends, and loved ones.
This episode was incredible. Thank you to Finns family and friends for their generous candor, and Erica and her team for producing such an authentic and moving podcast.
Heartbreaking and exquisite. Thank you, Erica. Thank you, Tara. Love to everyone in Hardwick.
Thank you for this incredibly moving story.
To Finn’s family…..I am so sorry for your loss.
He was an amazing young man.
oh erica. what a triumph in audio storytelling.
you have gracefully and bravely unfolded and edited an astonishing message of community and connection that is always ripe for reminding.
and for tara- and all those you interviewed– to illuminate even a tiny bit of what made finn extraordinary, while capturing his wish ring true, is a dauntless feat and a gift.
Thank you so much Erika, for listening and taking the time to respond.
Well done, Erica! Thank you for this heartbreaking, beautiful experience. Finn’s mom Tara, thank you for all you shared. So much love.
After your show ended, I thought of Leonard Cohen’s Ring the Bells and went and listened to it.
Thank you. What grace, joy and courage Tara had in sharing their family and community story and what skill you showed in honestly and delicately telling it to us. I will think of Finn when I hear bells from now on.
I was driving through Hardwick the other day and wondering what it’ll be like to hear that bell ring out. Glorious…
Apparently they’re raising money for the belfry now, so shouldn’t be long..
Thank you for writing in Chris. A lot.
I have no words, Erica.
Thank you for sharing Finn’s poignant story so beautifully.
Wow. This show left me breathless, Thank you Erica for introducing us to Finn. What a remarkable child. Tara, your boy is beautiful and a legacy.
My heart goes out to you, his dad, his brother, and all the people he touched in his short precious life. May we all aspire to be the person Finn was. I have no doubt his spirit is with us, and we owe it to him to show kindness to others, patience for those we don’t get along with, gratitude for our family and friends, and respect for our natural world.
Thank you so much Liz for taking the time to listen and to respond.
Wow, that wrecked me.
So many people said such interesting and touching things about a subject that is so sad and complicated. It really gives you hope somehow.
While i was listening i kept thinking,partly to distract myself from the story because it is so intense, what a tremendous job you did bringing people, all kinds of different people, together, helping to heal, while most stories in the media today are designed to drive people apart.
Now Finn lives in the memory of everyone who hears this show.
Yeah. There’s a kind of catharsis in her insights at the end that feels utterly surprising and hopeful but never negates the wretchedness of the loss. It’s very complicated. I simply couldn’t believe how she was able to articulate the machinations of this moment.
Once i was deer hunting and a red fox came by just at sunrise. He sat on a rock and the sun illuminated his red fur so all the ends of the hairs looked as though they had light inside them. Tara’s monlogue at the end was like that for me, but all I have of the fox story is a memory, and you actually caught her words on tape so thousands of people can hear her incredible, simultaneously tragic and beautiful words.
Now THAT is a beautiful way to describe what happens in that tape…
Yes, well said…he will always be in my heart and his mom Tara.
Erica, Thank you for telling this story beautifully and with sensitivity. Having lost a young colleague to suicide last fall, I feel the heartache of Finn’s family, friends and community. The ‘why’ is never known and the pain of that, and the loss of a treasured person lingers.
Sending love and strength to Finn’s family.
Amazingly well done. Thank you.
I just made a long overdue donation, prompted into action (finally) by both this story and the update on Peter Dunning of Hill Farm. I grew up in Springfield until I was 9 (1972) when my family moved to Arizona, but my whole life until then was at DuBeau’s Trailer Park (it was a nice park then) on Brook Road. The park was owned by a farmer up the road (DuBeau, obviously :)), and his field to the east of our park butted up against Mile Hill Farm’s forest. So basically I spent a LOT of time playing in the woods that Peter would come to own just a few years after we moved away. It was FASCINATING in both your work and the documentary to see what over time became of the area right next to where I grew up.
Here is the location if you want to map it: 43.32035249985192, -72.47659400417791
Thanks again for all the great work. I look forward to hearing more.
Phoenix, AZ, but a Vermonter for life
Such a beautiful piece on such an impossibly hard experience…the telling of it was crushingly human and raw. Thank you for your editing and composition of it that unveils so much beauty and grief compassionately. And thank you endlessly to Tara for sharing her love and grief. The love for and life of Finn is rippling across the miles and forever in the ether ❤️
Such a beautiful life he is still teaching us how to live
We have a suicide problem in Vermont, that has become worse since covid, and I am so grateful to you, Erica, for sharing the exquisite heartbreak of the people who have been left behind just one – one – of these lost Vermonters. As a mom of a teenager, my heart broke listening to Tara so bravely describe Finn’s long hair, to Finn’s friends describing him as the perfect hipneck — and with no answers, no obvious way to prevent the next suicide, almost panicking thinking of our teens.
This can’t be ok. This can’t be our norm as a state. I don’t know what the answers are, but I have to think that having our hearts collectively broken by understanding that we have lost this beautiful person is a healthy first step.
As a former Vermonter/and by association via my dad’s folks going back over 300 years one way to tacle this problem,is asking the white/wealty/well connected yuppies from NYC who flocked to Vt in droves,and apparently all bought alpacca farms,to pony up and give back to the communities that you take/continue to take so much out of and volunteer/create a suicide hotline/counciling center,esp those of you NYC expats with a psychcology /mental health back round.
Ask some of them to FINALLY STOP treating their new home as one GIANT vacation home and give back HELLO? to your neighbors who were not born w/a trust fund/silver spoon in their mouths and agreat way to truly “Love Thy neighbor” is to actually give a damn about your neighbors.Try being part of the solution instead of PERPETUALLY part of the problem.Thank you
Beautiful, painful, poignant, exploding with life and grief and community and transcendence. This is a gift. Thank you, Erica.
Daring to articulate the “unspeakable” is such brave medicine.
Thanks to you Erica for your part and to them for theirs.
This came to me and I must share.
Enjoy the parallels. May it soothe.
Johnny’s got high expectations. He’s gonna rise
Everyone knows that Johnny is ready. He’s ready to fly
Up on the rooftop he turns to the crowd
No one is waiting, ‘cause no one is there
Nobody knows why Elvis threw it all away
Nobody knows what Ruby had to hide
Nobody knows why some of us get broken hearts
And some of us find a world that’s clear and bright
You could be packed up and ready
Knowing exactly where to go
How come you miss the connection?
No use in asking, the answer is nobody knows
No use in asking, the answer is nobody knows
Johnny will keep his illusions. What else can he do?
And you can pretend that it would be different
if it happened to you
But up on the rooftop, it’s a whole other world
And who could see heaven, and not want to stay?
Nobody knows why Elvis threw it all away
Nobody knows what Ruby had to hide
Nobody knows why some of us get broken hearts
And some of us find a world that’s clear and bright
Thanks for this episode Erica. I am deeply grateful to Tara for sharing Finn’s glorious being with us.
This heartbreaking, yet inspiring story will help shape how I view the world for months or years to come. This is one of those too-rare cases when a profound story somehow lands in the hands of a storyteller who is worthy of being given the honor to tell it.
beautiful beautiful beautiful,
finnyboy forever and always.
may his light continue to shine
Thank you, Erica, for helping to show the world what an unbelievable light Finn Rooney shone on this earth and now beyond it. Your telling of this part of his story is so beautiful and so heartbreaking all at the same time. Sending so much love to Tara and Lyle and Alex and their community from their other community here in Marin County, CA.
What a beautifully written and narrated podcast. Finn is truly one of a kind, his love of earth, people and animals is unmatched. Thank you Finn we miss you and love you.
This is the most powerful and beautiful piece of radio/audio I have heard in a long time. I was moved to tears from the humanity of it and the Vermonty-ness of it. Thank you for holding such loving space for all of Finn’s loved ones to share the story of his life and of how they have grown closer as a community. Finn’s mom put it best, “we [really] are alive for one another.” A very resonate reminder for the right now as well. You do Vermont a great honor by collecting our stories the way you do, thank you.
This is an amazing piece of radio unlike I have heard in a long time. I’ve had students attempt and fail, and attempt and succeed at suicide and so this tribute to the beauty of one such human is deeply touching and affecting to me.
My audio/twitter friend Erica is an amazing interviewer and is so great at getting people to trust themselves and entrust their stories to her. And then just getting out of the way and letting the story unfold… she’ll add a bird or a cricket, or rain on leaves, or some natural sound, but that’s about all.
Finn’s mom’s story is one of the most beautiful pieces of narration of a heart breaking I have ever heard. It inhabits the strange territory between utterly personal agony and jubilant reverence for beauty and compassion. I felt blessed by her candor and revelation. What an instantaneously attuned seer and oddly circumscribed ululator. I understand why Finn longed for a bell’s simple declarations. He learned it, in part, from her I’m sure.
I just gasped and bawled through it all… I’m not sure how this story will chime or clang with yours, but give a listen when you have a moment and look at all of the pictures… this young man was so gorgeous and loved and this story keeps his energy moving forward into the universe… listen and help it move.
Thank you so much for this beautiful reply Rick. Wow.
What a heartbreaking story told with so much compassion and insight. A tragedy that brought out the best of humanity and a community. Finn’s mother, Tara, is amazingly strong to share her story so articulately with so much passion. My heart goes out to Finn’s family. Peace be with Finn and those who loved him.
It’s all been said above but just wanted to thank you for an incredible story. The kind of story that alters the trajectory of one’s day if not one’s life. I am sure I will listen to it again and again.
Thank you Jeb…
Thank you a lot for taking the time to write…
I was curious if you had any models for your story Finn and the Bell? It feels weird to ask a technical question about such an emotionally powerful story, but one reason I thought it was so good was that it’s a profile without ever having the subject in the story. I’ve read stories like this (Sinatra Has a Cold) but haven’t heard it in radio before, though I’ve wanted to try it myself. I’d love to hear if you had any inspiration for it. Thanks Erica.
I didn’t have any models…at least not that I’m aware of. But it’s a really interesting thing you bring up here. What was MOST difficult was trying to describe a person who I never met, to other people who never met him…and avoid the huge amount of ‘he was so great’ tape. If you didn’t know Finn personally, there is no reason you’d be moved or feel closer to him on hearing ‘he was so great’. This was really hard…and meant cutting out a HUGE amount of tape that I really loved. But I tried to stick as close as I could to anecdotes and particular stories about this kid, and let his specialness come through in those details. He loved to sharpen pencils. He loved a well set table. He’d polish up his cleats and put them back in the box. He wanted to have a bonfire where everyone came. My hope was that the accumulation of these details would reveal him best. It was also really clear from the start that I didn’t want to make a story about suicide, per se. And Tara and I were both really clear that the reason for his death was not our story to tell. But figuring out a way to get AROUND that…where listeners weren’t constantly feeling they needed to know why…?? That was hard too. Finally it just seemed easiest to say, ‘That’s not what we’re doing here.’ right at the top. There is so much about the making of this show that was uniquely challenging for me, and also fascinating, and also heartbreaking. Mostly I just feel really grateful that Tara trusted me to make it.
Erica, you did exactly what you set out to do. I didn’t know Finn, but I feel like I did now. I wish I had known him.
This moved me so deeply. I feel such gratitude for having heard it. How can this particular story fill me with love for humanity and give me such hope? It makes no sense, but it doesn’t have to.
And you did exactly that. Wow. Your sensitivity and compassion. Finn’s. Clearly how his mother Tara just…I don’t even have words, especially the last bit. And the New England-ness of it all. I haven’t felt so burst with humanity in…I don’t even know. Thank you.
I don’t have much patience. It’s unusual for me to stick with things until the end. Dear friends and family, stick with it. It will be worth your while. At the beginning, I started to cry. Not softly weeping, but great heaving sobs. And I didn’t stop until this piece ended, and then afterward for a while. For so many reasons.
This is one of the most moving stories I have ever heard. I no longer live in Hardwick but grew up there and lived in Greensboro as well. Listening I felt an overwhelming sense of pride in the community I hail from and deeply miss the connections people have there. Someday I hope to hear Finn’s bell ring out.
Amazing episode, Erica. Heart-wrenching, but absolutely world class. Finn would want the bell rung for this. Ty.
This took me deep inside and all the way outside at the same time…put off listening to it for fear of having all my own losses dredged up and didn’t want to drown in sorrow. This is a remarkable gift and a testament to what love is. Thank you Tara and thank you Erica.
One of the best and definitely the most touching podcast episodes I’ve ever listened to. Incredible work. Rest In Peace, Finn.
Thank you for listening Spike. I’ll make sure Finn’s mom Tara sees your comment
Such a beautiful and heart wrenching story. So beautifully put together and told with such honesty and love. Amazing.
Thank you for telling this story and describing Finn so well. I feel I knew him and I truly feel his loss.
I’m a very new audio storyteller, at the onset of my career. This is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever listened to. I pressed play, and could do nothing for the next half hour except scroll through the photos of this so beautiful young man.
Welcome Marina to audio storytelling. And thank you for listening to this story…
What could I possibly say what hasn’t been said. This episode is outstanding…
I listen to a lot of podcasts and storytelling, and I can honestly say that this is the most touching and beautiful I have ever heard. I puttered around the house while listening, but often found myself standing still, staring blankly, and wishing for a different outcome. I cried and cried for Tara and Lyle, and for Finn’s stunning life and death. This was a heartbreaking roller coaster ride.
This kind of storytelling is so important! Thank you for bringing it to us Erica. I hope you NEVER have to publish another episode like this again.
May Finn’s impact and memory ring out like the bell…
Thank you Vanessa…for listening and for taking the time to write this thoughtful response. I appreciate it a LOT. e
Thank you. Thank you. I walked around Tokyo tonight listening to these voices, this podcast. I so value hearing the fricken heart truth of peoples’ lives. Erica, I value what you do.
Walking around Tokyo listening to podcasts…
I have never been to Tokyo and today I am FIFTY-TWO so I am feeling fatalistic and will probably never get to Tokyo but the idea that YOU are in Tokyo listening to the podcast makes me feel very real grownup. So thank you for that.
Thank you for recording and preserving the human experience all these years. I’ve been moved by so many of your episodes and this one was no different, beautiful, deeply moving, and terribly sad.
RIP you beautiful young man. You touch so many lives, including mine. Thank you for posting this. My heart is with you.
you did a really nice job on this, Erica.
For those of us who’ve been left behind by the suicide of a loved one, this is pure medicine. It took me weeks to listen to this because I was afraid. But the the people’s voices, bats cracking balls, the puppet band, and the river flowing at the fishing spot- so much life. There aren’t really words to describe how beautiful it all is. Thank you.
Sarah. This makes me so, so happy. Thank you for listening and for taking the time to write this.
I’m listening from Scotland. This is a beautiful piece of work. So touching, so real and raw. Thank you, and thank you to all the people who contributed.
Thank you so much Kelly
Thank you. As someone who grew up in Hardwick and still lives in this community, as a mother, as a person so saddened by Finn’s death. Thank you. And thank you to Tara for sharing so openly – her words ripped through me. She is amazing. What a beautiful and important piece. You are a Vermont treasure, Erica.
Wow, Thank you deeply deeply moving
I’m imagining how much this podcast must have taken out of you, Erica. It’s wrenching to listen to and I know you worked on this quite a while. It’s a brilliant piece. Take good care of yourself.
Thank you Ty! Hard hard, but also incredibly satisfying to get even a LITTLE of this amazing kid’s spirit out into the world.
Exquisitely sad, and yet there is hope and beauty in Finn’s story. He sought connection. His story reminds us to look to each other beyond all of those things that do not, ultimately, matter in the quiet moments. Through this telling of him, Finn has become as the bell he sought to return to his community – a melody sounding in every ear that cares to listen and every heart that recognises our humanness. Erica, you allowed the story almost to tell itself. Finn’s mum’s words lifted, for a time, the darkness of Finn’s death as she held it to the snow-speckled light in her moment of recognition. To all who knew Finn, I hope that your memories and experiences of him at least balance the pain of his loss, if not outweigh it.
Erica, hope you and H are well and happy.
Julie!! Thank you so much for listening and I hope you three are well and happy!
Thank you Erica there’s just so much brilliance to the story. And you manage to capture it and share it with us. The brilliance of this young being, his family, his life lived in Hardwick, the brilliance of this community.The most poignant part of this story for me was how you captured the brilliance of the ending of his life, not the actual ending but the coalescence of his soul energy just pass that moment of his leaving and Tara’s magnificent experience in feeling that. Exquisitely heartbreaking and heart enlivening all at once. Thank you for this beautiful gift.
Thank you so much Anne for listening to this and for understanding the ending so beautifully…
Profoundly moving. Still wiping the tears away. What a gift Finn was, what an immense act of bravery Tara showed, what talent and compassion you brought to this work, Erica. Never to be forgotten. Thank you.
Thank you, Erika, for having the courage to work on this project and the skill to pull it off in a way that is a gift for everyone. And thank you to Tara, for having the courage to face such enormous grief and work to benefit others in doing so. It is incomprehensible sad and still so beautiful. If only we could all realize what Tara realized it that horrible moment, that we are put here, in these bodies, at this time, for each other.
“It kind of was like me, Finn, and God.” I hardly have words after hearing this story. I feel such love and gratitude to Tara, all of the voices, and Erica for bringing us this story. Many others have said how indelibly touched they feel by being allowed this closeness. I join that community.
Thank you for this beautiful piece. Finn modeled strength and love for us in a way that is rare and invaluable. He dreamed the best for us all, worked to harmonize us in our beautiful differences and put his shoulder under anyone wanting to move with him toward the same. I’m better for knowing him and I bring him with me into my work in the world. Thank you Tara.
Thank you for a very sensitive presentation. And this story about a wonderful family and their incredible tragedy.
I’m so sorry to hear about this loss – I never knew Finn but now I do. And I miss him.
This is the most poignant, honest, brave and beautiful piece I have ever listened to. I am touched beyond measure. Thank you for airing it. My motherheart is joined to all of yours.
Finn and the Bell ~
I feel so fortunate listening to this incredible conversation. Bringing community together through such a tragic event. Not just for Hardwick and Greensboro – Finn! You have reached others across the globe. Your desire to bring people together, from different walks of life will never end. You have done it and will continue to because your Mom was so generous with her grief.
Thank you Erica. Thank you Tara for asking Erica. Thank you Rose for pointing out Erica.
Thank you everyone.
Thank you Finn.
I’m grateful that I listened…..I wasn’t sure if I could. It was beautiful, gut-wrenching and full of courageous love! My son Symon died by suicide 22 yrs. ago when he was 21. Thank you Tara and Erica and everyone who put their heart out there to make this.
This was an extraordinary piece of reporting – not an easy program to hear but I listened to it twice; it was so beautifully and tenderly delivered.
We are very lucky to have Erica’s regular broadcasts telling the stories of Vermonters for Vermonters and the rest of the country. Please, VPR foster her; she is a Vermont treasure.
I’m astounded, again. Since I listened to the episode when it first came out I’ve been wanting to listen once more but felt strange about it somehow, like gawking at the scene of a traffic accident, because it’s so raw. So I was glad today’s event and interview with Jane gave me an “excuse” to do it. I sat in my dark living room in front of the fire with the white lights of our small Christmas tree twinkling, my eyelids at half-mast, a cat in my lap. Cozy, as Finn would probably have called it.
And I’m profoundly struck, again, by Tara’s willingness to share her grief, by the huge waves of emotion all three women did not try to mask, by Tara’s honesty which is a map she has sketched for us, a portal into some possibility, some way we might connect if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with each other, to speak the truth with tenderness and trust. I’m overwhelmed with love for her and Erica and Jane and Finn and the world at large, everyone I’ve ever met and everyone I never will. I know what I want to do in honor of Finn—make community a verb not a noun as often as I can for the rest of my time here. Thank you all for sticking with it, for pushing through the discomfort you initially felt about how to bring Finn’s story to us, you did it beautifully and his light is absolutely undiminished.
Thank you for sharing Finn and his mother’s bountiful love with us. What a gift. My heart goes out to you, Tara. Your loving courage has brought Finn to those of us who never knew him. Looking at the photos, I felt as if I was reunited with an old friend.
THANK YOU Tara for sharing. Mother to mother, you are my hero. THANK YOU Erica and everyone who made Finns story possible for me to hear and feel in the depths of my soul. My wish for you Tara, is in those dark moments ahead, that you feel all the LOVE and support in these beautiful messages. Beautiful. Soulful. Honest. Courageous. Just precious.
Wow thank you for the podcast Finn and the bell. I’ve been listening to it on this cold night, and am feeling very at home hearing people’s memories, and feelings about my good friend. Also, thank you to everyone who has given it a listen or shown your love in any way to Finn and Finn’s family. The last time I saw Finn and got to hang out for a while was in the summer, he told me about his love for pies, especially with exotic berries, or blueberries, red and black currants if I’m not mistaken. We hung out for a long time. Also, he told me about hunting squirrels with a slingshot and living off the land. I played my guitar for him that day and nobody has ever shown as much support for my playing as much as he did. I was glad I got to know him while I could. I’ll miss his humor, his unconditional love for people, and the comradery he gave me as a chess opponent and on the soccer field.
It took me two or three tries to get through this one. I’m 49, mother to 4 and never in my life have I heard another mother capture the adoration of her son better. And never have I heard someone speak into words the mystery of when life leaves us and the energy of life and how our souls linger and long for each other. To Finn’s mom, you are Devine, thank you for telling us about him and having the willingness to give words to what devours most of us. Erica Heilman, all I can say is thank you for being willing and get on eye level with life’s raw moments and the good will to share it with us. You remind us what matters…. girl you’re better than going to church!
What an amazing comment. Good god. Thank you Coleen.
The compassion running through every fiber of this work breaks me open. Early in my grief for losing my partner to suicide, my oldest friend–a writer whose sister had died by suicide a few years before then–brought me a blank notebook. On the front page she had written “This is the medicine I know.”
This is the medicine. Thank you.
Thank you so much for listening Brady.
Well, you’ve done it. I don’t think you need to make another show – ever. You’ve made the show of all shows. You can walk away knowing you’ve reached the pinnacle of your career as a podcast producer. (You should obviously make more, but seriously, this one takes the freakin cake.)
Thank you for creating and sharing. Know and love Tara through her Instagram. It was horrible to know about such a great loss, but wonderful thing to share of it the way you did. Maybe someone who’s feeling desperate will think of his decision and choose to live and learn more about his true uniqueness, indispensability for this world and all the love he might not have a clue about. And it’s true gift to know more about Finn himself and those who love him. With sadness and love, from Russia.
Thank you Olga for listening and for taking the time to write so thoughtfully.
Many thanks Erica, such a fine piece – humanity, love, joy, the desolation of losing a person- someone clearly loved by so many- Your audio piece brings all of that – humanity, love, joy, desolation- close to the heart and mind-
Wow, just wow. Deep in my own journey of grief from unexpected losses, this podcast episode is a true gift. In a way, it feels like the best kind of friend to have while going through a tragedy: one that doesn’t flinch away from the raw and unbearable — while also holding space for some light and levity. This episode also captures the immense beauty that can arise amidst grief in a way that does not discount its heaviness. A huge thank you to everyone who made this episode possible — and especially to everyone that was so generous in their grief. This episode accomplishes so much that simply goes beyond words. Thank you, Erica. What a powerful tribute to a beautiful soul and a beautiful family and community.
Thank you for this amazing and lucid response Natasha. I appreciate it a lot.
This is exactly how I feel after listening – thank you for putting it into words. I will be thinking about the spotlight in the snow for a long, long time.
Absolutely gut wrenching but yet hopeful at the same time? I just loved how the northern Vermonters took care of their own. I visited Hardwick in the 1970s with my aunt whose college roommate lived there…They are the salt of the earth people and it was reflected in this piece. I loved hearing the memories from everyone who contributed but particularly feel for Finn’s mom. No one should ever have to go through this. I am hoping I see a spotlight on a snowy night so that I can send a special prayer to the whole community. Well done.
This story rocked me. What a beautiful person this community was so lucky to know. Uncannily, I was listening this while getting to know a new town, and came upon the Rio Vista Compassion Garden. I’d never heard of a compassion garden, but how sad that we need them – yet, beautiful that they are there for us to remember and mourn. My heart goes out to Finn’s family and their fantastic friends and neighbors. Thank you for letting the rest of us get to know Finn, just a little. Thank you for showing me how to be a better community member.
Vermont has a child fatality review team and I learned about this podcast from one of our members today. I waited until the end of the day to listen to it. My own teenagers, home from school, are in the kitchen together as I write this. The pictures of Finn, especially the one of him in his hat on a cold sunny day, tore me in two. Our group often struggles with the staggering sadness of teenage suicides, the unspeakable loss and how to help the community grasp just how often it is occurring in our communities, how common it is for teenagers to have access to firearms and how this horrible thing can happen when they do. Sometimes there are warning signs but often there are not, their brains are still growing and forming and impulsive. They have amazing parents like Finn’s, have good friends, and do well in school. Finn’s death has many things in common with other amazing young people whose lives ended way too soon. I don’t pretend to know how we best address this crisis but I’m glad you are opening the way for people to talk about it. Finn’s parents are very brave and generous to allow his story to be shared. I do so appreciate the way you told it to us, and showed us the great qualities of one person we lost way too soon.
Absolutely beautiful. What a soul <3 I know he’s with Tara and Lyle every day as well as that amazing community!
I’ve been a constant listener for a while now but due to how much I listen to I sometimes have to clear the load and by mistake, I cleared this episode from my feed but after hearing you on 99PI I had to check this out. I wept so hard. This is so incredibly beautifully made. It’s almost like this was meant to be an audio-only piece of journalism too with the poignancy of the bell.
Thanks Erica. Keep making this beautiful works of audio art.
Thank you so much for this beautiful and gut wrenching story. The impact of this story and his life will travel great distances. ‘Why are we here – but for each other’ – this story and Finn inspired me today.
This was wonderfully beautifully painfully heartbreaking and special. Thank you.
We don’t listen to the radio and have almost sworn off mass media because of the inescapable mealy-mouthed deceit. Coming across Rumble Strip is like coming out of a cloud of bad smoke into clear air. Thank you (from Windham County) for your clear vision, skill and love, particularly in evidence in this program.
Thank you so much for Finn and the Bell. It was so heartfelt it really struck a chord with me. We lost our son at the age of 14 when he hanged himself in his bedroom – he left no note and we will never know why. It’s surely the worst thing that can happen to a family and even now, 33 years later, I, my wife and Peter’s younger brother live with the grief. Other people can help, and indeed helped us get through those terrible first few months. The way Finn’s death affected his community was a wonderful portrait of the best of the American way of life – something unfortunately we in Australia don’t always recognise. Thanks again.
David, I’m so sorry for your loss 33 years ago – sending my thoughts to you in Australia from Vermont.
Thank you for this x
I am so sad, so devastated, and yet I am glad to have discovered this episode and to have listened. Thank you so much for this beautiful work of art.
Thank you for listening Janet and taking the time to write. And I’m sorry it took me so long to approve the comment. I’m a terrible website manager! Erica.
I got to this via 99% Invisible (like many folk I suspect) and nearly didn’t listen because it felt like it would be too hard and too painful. So glad that I did and thank you, from the bottom of my heart to you for this. And to everyone who loves Finn who took the time and energy to talk about him and the experience of losing him. I wish, for you all, good things and peace and joy.
I have heard this particular episode not too long ago for research to hear all the Peabody Award nominees for 2021. After hearing it, I have to say this: I hope you get this award this year. This episode felt emotional to me and it is a story that appeals to me in terms of sympathy. Even if it doesn’t win, at least this nomination will serve as a badge of honor. I can’t wait to hear what you bring to the table next.
An incredible story told with the most beautiful tones of compassion and the colors of a life well-lived, despite its shortness. It speaks to humanity and grief and courage and the best in our willingness to be. God bless you, Finn. You gave more to your community in a few short years that many give in a lifetime. Be at peace. And BRAVA, Erica for keeping this story at that level of dignity which it so deserved.
Beauty. Compassion. Joy in the ordinary. The simple values that made our country and people great, and to which we long to return. Finn and his community have these and so do you, Erica. Thank you for giving us this moment to reflect and reset.
Many times, when listening to your podcasts, I have been struck by your ability to connect to people and your sensitivity in conversations about difficult topics. You have a gentle understanding of people, great empathy, and a truly unusual ability to convey the depth of human experiences to your audience. Often it has occurred to me that you rival Terry Gross in these qualities. How fitting it is that you both have been chosen for this year’s Peabody Award. Your portrayal of the spirit of the Hardwick community was exceptionally perceptive and supportive.
Suicide is an especially fraught topic to engage with. It evokes a strong voyeuristic impulse in all of us, listeners and journalists alike. It is a testimony to your skill that you portrayed this young man’s life and the depth of its impact on this community in such a sensitive and compassionate way – his mother knew you would, which is why she approached you to tell his story.
Thank you, Erica, for introducing us to Finn — his family, friends and community. This is a moving and joyous celebration of Finn’s life. It opens a window for us on the preciousness of life itself, and on how we can care for one another.
Why, why, why…?
What a shame, what a loss.
This was a great piece of art and was honored as such with a Peabody. Now: I think it’s very important to explore in another format why Finn killed himself. Parents of suicide victims and suicidal kids may benefit greatly from such a discussion. So many parents say: there were no clues. But looking back there were many. I hope that exploration is done here with the same mastery that this story was told. There would’ve been no way to talk about “why” in this piece. But there is a place time and manner to do it. So I pray that happens.
I think it’s probably true that it’s a critical conversation for parents and families. Very early on in this process, Tara and I agreed it was not a question we felt comfortable addressing. Tara was very clear that she did not want to speculate about the ‘why’ for a lot of reasons, but primarily because she will never know his reasons, and she doesn’t want to assume or co-opt that part of his story. Second, she definitely didn’t want to speculate about his reasons in public, because it seemed invasive of his privacy. So we stuck to her experience, and the community’s experience, and what the DID know and understand and love about Finn.
Thank you for sharing this powerful story.
I’ve been a fan of yours AND Glynn Washington for as long as you’ve been out there. Hearing that he’d discovered you and wanted us all to hear this story made my heart sing, but, hearing the story of Finn, more than usual, made me weep. I think I need that and you can get me there every time. You are special.
I got in my car this morning and this episode of my favorite podcast appeared. I was hit so hard just to see it, as my own teenage son, also Finn, is struggling with depression, and I have been so afraid to leave him in the mornings, afraid of what he might do, how much lower he might be feeling than I really know. My son even has a dog named Hank and he too is a sensitive sweet combination of masculine and feminine. I was afraid to listen to it, afraid that it would cause me too much fear and pain. But it was so courageous and profound that it gave me hope. I am doing everything I can to support my son, and your story reminded me to look into the deeper connection that we have, to remember that there are so many things about our kids’ lives we cannot control, and that thing I keep returning to; that being a good parent is mostly just showing up and a little bit of magical thinking, which you have shown me is true in life and in death.
Tara is a brilliant mother to her kids, in life and in death. Thank you so much for sharing this profound work.
Tara.. I just caught the last 10 minutes or so of this story… I am sitting here in tears.. I feel your anguish.. I hear you questioning yourself. Let the guilt go. You are an amazing Mother. I was bullied as an adult on the job where I worked as a Nurse. A 30 year spotless career and suddenly I was being called into my boss’s office . I was almost fired! Rumors and lies swirled around me. I was despondent and at one point considered hurting myself. The irony of Nurses hurting their own is not lost on me. After 2 devastating years of dark depression I am beginning to see the light. Your story is so important. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us. I am getting ready to listen to the whole broadcast. Hugs. I know if we met, we would be friends. Let God give you daily strength. Keep telling his story. Finn did not die in vain. This issue is critical. God bless you richly.
I have never heard anything like what Finn’s mother described in the moments after she learned of his death. It was astonishing. Her ability to find words for the images and feelings and thoughts that were coming to her, crashing into her mind and soul – I am so glad that you were able to capture that Erica. This family sounded lovely and normal and kind and connected. As a mom, it made me feel somewhat powerless and afraid. If a woman with that insight and relationship to her kids could not see it or stop it, how can any of us? I am so glad for what Hardwick did for this family, for Finn and for themselves. We are all capable of so much love and compassion. And we are better for having heard this story. Thank you.
Having just listened via Snap Judgement today, I’m still raw with emotion. Such a beautiful story yet so difficult to listen to. As a parent of someone with depression and thoughts of suicide – and a resident of Vermont, this felt so close. Too close. Tara, I truly wish you, your family, friends, neighbors and community the very best. When I drive through Hardwick from now on, I will think of you all warmly.
Hello from California. I just listened to Finn and the Bell on Snap Judgement aired on 88.5 KQED. I’m trying to find the words to express as I write this. My heart is bursting with anguish and hope, I wept listening to Finn’s mother in her wrenching retelling of this amazing soul who is gone too soon. I’m so sorry to the family and the community. This has marked me and helped me in ways that I won’t be able to define for sometime. Thank you for creating and sharing this cathartic story of life. Long love Flynn, fly free.
“He just recognized the importance of little things you could do to make day-to-day life so much exponentially better.” Hearing the story of Finn and The Bell is an important (big) little thing that has made my day, and my life, exponentially better. I appreciate the care with which this piece was approached, framed, and edited. I appreciate Finn’s friends and Family sharing such illustrative, nuanced, and heartfelt personal recollections of Finn—especially Aaron sharing a special place with Erica while keeping it sacred between himself and Finn, “I won’t tell anybody where this spot is. It’s me and Finn’s spot.” I appreciate Tara’s moments of laughter through tears, and for her inviting us to laugh and cry in kind. (“Look at their perennial garden!”) I appreciate that in the Snap Judgment interview with Tara, she spoke with pride and gratitude for Lyle for having the strength to still get out of bed everyday.
Grief is Love in disguise. This story of Finn and The Bell, a story of generous grief and generous love, is unifying and still unique. It is transformative and still familiar. It is devastating and still comforting. Thank you, Erica and Tara, for your truth-telling.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as affected by a story on the radio in all my fifty-one years of life on this earth. What a devastating loss and what a profound gift to us all. What a tremendous tribute to life you all have wrought.
I would first like to say wow, this was incredible! My uncle (who was more of a brother to me and who I spoke to every day) killed himself in 2015. I was 25 years old at the time and for years I struggled because I knew he was going through a very difficult time but I didn’t really understand why. Though we spoke every day he had not told me that his medication for his mental illness had run out and Medicaid had dropped him because he didn’t come into the office for an interview. He had agoraphobia so severely that he was unable to leave our small community in Calcasieu, Louisiana. This incredible story of Finn reminds me of my uncle Rustin’s tragic and beautiful story. Looking at the pictures here of Finn and hearing this story also makes me think about my boys at home who are 3 and 1 and I’ve been weeping uncontrollably for hours at this point. I wish I had met Finn he sounds like he was an amazing person. Love to everyone who has lost someone. Love to everyone in his community who knew him and especially to his mother, father, brother and best friend.
I would encourage everyone to love one another and hold those closest to you very tightly no matter what they do and read Finn’s obituary if you haven’t already. It is incredible.
I never listen to podcasts. I caught this on NPR while driving on the Long Island Expressway yesterday (NY). I was both devastated and uplifted in a way I haven’t been for quite a while. I am so sorry for this young man and his family. But I am also grateful to his mom for her final insight. God bless.
Time has stopped for me. My grandson,in whom I loved dearly, took his life May 10 2022.He was always a happy person.
And for me at this point, today right now I hate life.
Erica, what a story and masterful job you did at interviewing & listening. The Peabody is so well deserved. I have had to listen to this twice, and I suppose it is because I am older now but I wanted to reach through the speakers back into time and grab Finn and sit him down and let him know it all comes out Ok in the end. For Tara and her truth, I can only hope she can forgive whomever and whatever she thinks she must and perhaps these words of wisdom I teach my recoverees will aid: “Forgiveness is giving up hope for a better past”. Keep up the good work and thank you and all those who were part of this story.
Enough can’t be said about the pain and loss felt by the family. I’m so sorry, especially for Mom. Im so, so sorry. Thank you for being brave enough, and stoned enough, to share your story. To share Finn’s story. To share the story of your community.
I was broad-sided by a drunk driver in 2008, killing my best friend and passenger. I made it out out of my upside-down SUV without a scratch. I’d left my seatbelt engaged and crawled out a window. I remember every second as an eternity, but also in something like real time. I really sympathize with Mom’s description of the second she heard the sound and the time right after. I had a clear mind when I got out of the car, and I was calm and clear convincing first responders I was in the SUV they pulled My best friend from as it poured gasoline everywhere. I was wanting to go back and Get my friend, noticing as I looked at the Jeep that he wasn’t immediately following me.
We weren’t far from my childhood home when the oncoming car ran the light and hit the passenger side. I was sure others at the busy intersection called 911; I called my mom. She arrived before any of the first responders and was so panicked her memory ignores my calling her, and that she searched for me from the sidewalk thinking I’d surely died in the wreck. In the same instant I thought of my friend’s mom. I still think of her all the time.
So many years later you have The tong that’s reply brought all of this full circle for me is the bell. My mom used to listen to a program on Christmas Eve where the sounds of real bells across Europe we’re played and described. I can’t help feeling like that love transferred to me, and then connect me to this story.
I’m so grateful to have heard it’s toll, but not as grateful as I am sorry for Finn.. and his mom… especially.
Hopefully that you typo m the first paragraph encourages a smile or laugh. James would have appreciate that!
I lost a 19 year old son to suicide 18 months ago. I felt everything in this story. Thank you for your story and the courage to be honest with it.
I have similarly tried to honor my son’s life by being clear about what happened. He didn’t simply “sadly pass away” as the trite obituaries would record.
He took his life, specifically and intently. He was compassionate enough to leave a note which tells everything and nothing simultaneously.
Being open, even when excruciating, has helped me heal somewhat and it has helped others. I don’t know what else to do.
Sending you and your family, and all those who suffer, the best energy.
“Look for the helpers ” Fred Rogers
This was so difficult to listen to. And profoundly moving. Thank you to those who produced it. And deep deep gratitude and love to Finn’s mother and family.
I was sitting in my car last evening, contemplating suicide. Trying to distract myself from my thoughts, I put on the radio and immediately put on NPR, something I rarely do anymore. To find a podcast about a young man who took his own life in that moment was…I don’t know what to call it, a synchronicity I suppose, but to what end, I don’t know. I’ve felt that way many times before in my life and have never acted on it. It’s doubtful I would have then had I not heard this story about Finn (the first three letters of my full name, btw). It allowed me to cry even more and gave me some relief.
The way that his mom described the moments following the sound of the fateful gunshot was so beautiful and profound. These words remind me of what I just learned from a book on Buddhism and will stay with me forever:
“it was like infinite compassion for like…every single person that had ever lived, like including me and including Finn for doing this. I remember saying out loud…’ohhhh’…like I understood for just a second there, like, why we were alive and it felt like it was…for each other.”
Thank you so much Erica, Tara, and to all who shared this with us.
I’m so glad you got to hear this podcast, Nola. I feel that everyone who’s listened to it is now a part of Finn’s community. It’s his bell ringing.
Oh Nola. I am happy you found the show and that crying brought some relief. The comments about this story reveal that you are VERY much not alone in your pain. We are all out here alone and together….all over the world. Please write again if you want or if it seems useful. All love. Erica
Nola, I know this story from both sides. The only thing that can match the torment that brings a person to take their own life is the torment of being a family member left behind. The way Tara describes the moment of realization and going for a neighbor to help really says it all.
I’m glad this story spoke to you in somewhat of a positive way. Life is a journey with so many personal hardships, but there is beauty also.
I accidentally heard this on the radio last weekend and was so sad during the time it took to finish. Later I told several people about this wonderful story but oh so sad. I just listened again and somehow wished I had met Finn.
I lost my wife of 51 years eight years ago. Each day I find myself thinking of her and over the last 8 years I realize I’m remembering more and more all the good things that happed with us. Hearing your story helped me sort it out somewhat.
Thank you for sharing your nightmare, I just cant image being in your shoes. All I can think of is why why why. I know there is no answer to the question and your approach to this crisis has been so good
Love from NJ, Ray
Found this episode through Snap Judgement. So well done, so touching, so raw…..amazing! Thank you for sharing Finn’s story!
Found this podcast through Snap Judgment and the incredible Glynn Washington. Thank you Erica and Tara for sharing this beautiful and difficult story on Finn and his legacy and community. We have a serious suicide problem in our nation and talking about it is essential. I was on a solo visit to Burlington last month when my supper was interrupted by a “please call me” text from an old friend. In a flash I knew what was coming, though our mutual friend’s death by his own hand would be out of the blue to most anyone. Grief and sadness came over me like a deep fog. Hiking the next day at Mt Philo between ugly cries I experienced some version of what Tara describes – a profound appreciation for life and the beauty, complexity and mystery of this world. Somehow we are capable of feeling sadness and awe at the same time. It came back when I listened to this podcast. We are all connected.
I could read the transcripts for this story, their community, his family, Finn’s Life … over and over and over again.
While winding through the Vermont countryside to my friend Sarah’s horse farm, my daughter and I listened to Finn and the Bell. Unfortunately, my small Vermont town that sits along the Connecticut River experienced a similar event when my daughter’s friend and classmate ended his life on Memorial Day weekend. He was 12 years old and Sofia, my daughter, was the last friend who texted him. “Jack, where are you?” It unfolded painfully and slowly and the realization of what had happened tore through the fabric of our little community and we felt bare, naked, in its cold. How could this happen? A familiar question that has no answer. It’s traumatic and so sudden that it’s difficult to comprehend. Time doesn’t reveal anything though, except in the silence of absence, the presence of compassion, a knowing that his being is now part of the universe. Finn, and Jack, heard something that no one else could hear and so they went back to where they came from, to that mystery. They went toward something that was calling. And left behind the love. Thank you for sharing. It was beautiful and beyond words.
I heard this episode a week or so ago, but missed the very beginning of the episode.
So, I was hearing stories about this kid that liked to help people and have community fun times, ect.
Quickly, I realized they were talking about Finn in the past sense and I started to wonder how he passed.
The memories shared were so special and I thought this was a good way to remember someone.
My 23 yr old sister died the same way in January 2020. It was a total shock that I still don’t know how to approach.
I feel so grateful to hear such heartfelt eulogy by an entire town for a beloved teen. I know I’ll be taking inspiration from this to explore my own grief.
Wow. What a beautiful story. Lots of thoughts and tears. Thank you all for sharing this.
Many thanks to Erica, Tara and everyone interviewed for a very thoughtful story told well.
What a truly beautiful story. My heart is so full with love and heartache. This sweet, creative, and lovable young man…this kind, warm, and gentle mom…this loving and strong community. What a beautiful story the heartache and hope together … it’s all so very beautiful. I’m haunted by that moment when Terra looked up at the light. Oh, my heart. I’m sending you all love. Lots of love.
I listened to this as my own teenage son is talking trash cheerfully with his friends, playing a video game. I try to imagine him gone, that force of life and joy and noise gone, and the thought steals my breath. Thank you for this story of loss, and grief, but also of love, and gratitude. I don’t think I have cried with such force, ever, but I’m glad you told Finn’s story.
This is an amazing podcast. Finn’s mother’s description of looking into the snow-filled light blew me away. Extraordinary. What a mystery. What an astounding an inspiring young man. This is a great podcast. Thank you
A very touching podcast about a very special young man. Was he ill beforehand? Recently read about a disorder called PANDAS – related to streptococcal infections.
Listening to this podcast – exquisitely crafted Erica and deserving of the Peabody award and many more – is, as someone else commented, like hearing Finn’s bell calling out to all of us: “Live this human life to its fullest.” And love one another with great tenderness because we truly do not know what is going to happen from one moment to another. Looking at the photos and Finn’s lists helped me gain a felt sense of this young man and his “Mamma” Tara and their community. Deep sadness mingled with awe and gratitude.