New York Magazine

The Last Person on Earth

A mother considers her son’s final thoughts and a type of suicide we don’t fully understand.
Fisseha “Sol” Samuel during his senior year of high school.

HE WAS A MARVELOUS, graceful boy. We, his lucky family from the moment he arrived at age 10 from Ethiopia, weren’t the only ones to think so. A wide swath of local boyhood fell in love with him, too, migrating to our house, staying off and on, nights and weekends, holidays and road trips … staying, really, until he left us.

His name was Fisseha, American nickname Sol. Before he was even speaking English, in the summer of 2004, he began unwittingly to dazzle us with skills that were second nature to him, a goatherd from sub-Saharan Africa. He could spark fires with stones, build small huts, and whistle piercingly through his teeth without using his fingers. He had a gentle knack with animals; on his first walk with the family, he carried home our elderly dachshund as if it were a baby goat at risk of being left behind in the wilderness. “Very small, Mom,” he explained.

He stripped bark from trees and wove it into twine and then into a sling, a

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