Austin Sisneros Obituary, Death – Life can be unpredictable. You wake up with twenty things to accomplish, each competing for priority. A text changes everything. I felt that way this morning when I discovered from a mutual friend that my eleven-year-old friend Austin John Sisneros had committed suicide last night following a lengthy, private battle with depression.
We met in January 2012 when I discovered that a mutual friend was his vocal coach for American Idol. After his journey to Detroit, I helped him figure out who he was and what he wanted to be. I helped him finish his undergrad in a Provo house I owned with pals. I set up a kickoff meeting with Tyler Castleton, who would produce his first record. Castleton recognized him as the outstanding teen he had seen play years earlier at an LDS Church event. While discussing strategy and song mix, his mood altered.
Austin was happier than ever as we drove home from Castleton’s studio. Austin’s happiness was elusive. His childhood of sexual and physical abuse, drugs, terror, homelessness, and hunger made me cry. Despite living in a junkyard car, he became Riverton High School’s student body president and was popular, sociable, outgoing, and kind.
In Detroit, he learned to immerse himself in service and shared his grief and loss with inner-city students. He used music to touch hearts and change lives as a successful missionary. He finished as President’s Assistant. He would have continued his mission indefinitely if he could. He moved into my BYU-area house with five other guys after returning home.
I brought him to North Star, a support group, as he tried to define himself and his life. He made close friends he trusted and loved there. Kevin Randall, Jeff Bennion, Chaz Poettgen, Josh Searle, and Pret Dahlgren made him feel worthy of God’s and their love. He was bolstered by their camaraderie. “I now feel safe,” he remarked.
I finished his undergraduate degree with limited financial and family support. I helped him fund a study abroad trip to Israel, and he brought me a meticulously protected vial of consecrated oil from the Mount of Olives, which I have in my office. He met Michael McKinley, who would become a lifelong friend.
He revealed in his junior year that he wanted to study medicine instead of music. I advised him on MCAT prep, medical schools, and financing. He and I were proudest of his medical school graduation and captaincy. I knew his struggles to get there. His marriage ended despite its initial promise, and he finally felt free to live as a gay man, something he had fought for so long. Despite his divorce’s misery, loss, and failure, he truly believed he was “part of the plan.”
He considered for a bit and responded, “no, because then I wouldn’t have had my boys.” He was proud of his two young sons who adored him completely. Since moving to Texas, they were uncommon, but he valued every moment with them. In June 2018, he began his three-year residency at Fort Hood in Texas, where he thought he could finally make a difference. He was a kind, wise doctor who listened to his patients and took care of their bodies and spirits.
Depression’s inexplicability is sad. Why this after all he’d endured to get here? Now? I don’t know if he left a note, so I can only conjecture, but I want to see him again “with every fiber of my being” to find out what inspired this deed. In his final American Idol audition, he sang Train’s lyrics:
When it rains it pours and opens doors And floods the floors we thought would always keep us safe and dry And in the midst of sailing ships we sink our lips into the ones we love That have to say goodbye And as I float along this ocean I can feel you like a notion that won’t seem to let me go ‘Cause when I look to the sky I see you. Sweetheart, rest in peace. I’ll be looking up more.