Saturday was one of those family days the Goetz family won’t forget. It was chock full of fall activities, including winterizing their home and pool, cleaning the car, cleaning up the garden.
Oh, and there was that food fight at lunch with the rotten apples, which brought laughter from Mary Goetz as she recalled it Monday night.
The day ended, though, with Mary and her husband, Michael, finding their son, Tom, a 17-year-old junior at Bishop Carroll, crumpled in a closet dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“It’s been a nightmare no parent should ever have to go through,” Mary Goetz said. “Sharing this nightmare – for us, to prevent 10 or even 1,000 kids’ (deaths) – Tom’s life won’t have just ended in vain.”
Tom Goetz’s funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Jude Catholic Church, while the rosary is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Michael and Mary Goetz said it was important to talk about the end of their son’s life, which they believe was an accident. The coroner’s determination of a cause of death is pending.
The Goetzes said Tom, one of seven children, was loving, full of life, always smiling. He was eager to win the Class 5A football championship as a Carroll Golden Eagle. Actually, he planned to win two, just to show his two older brothers, Carroll alums, who had not won one.
There was the upcoming homecoming dance he planned to attend, and the Super Bowl in which he was sure his Seattle Seahawks would be playing.
Saturday night, though, after Michael and Mary went to eat pizza and listen to music with friends and their two younger children, Tom Goetz shot aerosol paint into both nostrils.
“I believe that he experimented in a very bad way with aerosol paint and it put him into an immediate hallucinatory, irrational state,” said Mary, a nurse of 30 years. “I don’t believe it was an intentional injury or a suicidal attempt.”
After looking through their house for their son when he didn’t answer their phone calls Saturday night, Michael found him in the closet.
“He just looked like a baby,” Michael said, pausing to sob. “Just like a little baby.”
He called frantically for Mary.
“I knew the minute I saw him, that he had already passed,” Mary said. “We found him in our closet, sitting up against one of the walls, his eyes dilated.”
News of Tom’s death spread quickly, and by 4 p.m. Sunday, the Carroll football players had organized a 6 p.m. rosary on the football field. Carroll coach Alan Schuckman estimated that 600 people attended.
About 15 Kapaun Mount Carmel players, along with coach Dan Adelhardt and athletic director John Heise, came to pay their respects.
Kapaun and Carroll are fierce crosstown rivals, who play on Friday night at Carroll.
But that was all forgotten as they came to offer their support.
“It was very much student-driven,” Adelhardt said. “They’re just good kids, and it’s the appropriate thing to do.… This really puts things in perspective. There’s life and death in football, and then there’s life and death.”
And that’s what Mary Goetz so wants to impress upon anyone who might experiment in a similar way.
“Kids in the virtual world with Xbox, they see the games where there’s no ending to them,” she said. “Where it doesn’t matter if you kill the enemy 10 times, they give you 500 times. You don’t get to kill yourself and come back.
“It’s gone. It’s dead. There’s no restart. Our son is dead.”
It’s a devastating loss for the Goetz family and the Carroll community, many of whom remembered his blue eyes, his freckles. His family has donated his corneas, his skin tissue.
What also has helped not only the Goetzes, but the Carroll football players and coaching staff, is their faith.
“That’s the beauty of Bishop Carroll; we’re able to bring our faith into it,” Schuckman said. “It’s pretty comforting, really. It allows us to deal with things like this. That’s a big plus.”
The Goetzes agreed.
“We have all this love, and we need to take that and share with everybody,” Mary Goetz said. “Love is so much stronger, and we can conquer. But we have to let our kids know, that one time can be your last time.”