Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Long Night
It is deep into the night and I cannot sleep. No, it is not a hot online poker game that is keeping me up, nor anything remotely interesting on television that has caused this disconnect.

A woman with whom I work lost her only son the other day. Whenever a 20-year old dies, we immediately suspect that either an alcohol-related auto accident or suicide was involved. I was saddened to hear that her son apparently took his own life. He was attending a university in another state. I cannot even imagine someone having to break the news to the family.

I am long past the age when my death would be a total shock. It seems to me that when people die in their thirties, people think "What a shame. He died at such an early age." Once you hit about mid-forties, however, the shock value is mostly gone. People may be surprised, but you begin to expect that people die of natural causes. It is a very disconcerting feeling. But when the young die, there is something profoundly sad about it.

In the mid-1990's, my best friend at work delighted in telling me about the athletic exploits of his son, a wide receiver on the local high school team. The son was a good athlete and attracted interest from a number of universities. However, he suffered a leg injury and suddenly interest waned. The boy, David, worked like hell to rehab and was looking forward to playing out his senior year and showing all the colleges that gave up on him that they made a mistake. However, David made one of those poor decisions that cost him his life.

One night, he was drinking with a group of his friends and made the mistake of getting in his car. He was speeding down a dangerous road, lost control, and hit into a tree. Everyone else in the car was relatively unharmed. David, unfortunately, broke his neck and died instantly.

The saddest day in my professional career was the evening I took the phone call from my department head and heard that David had died. It was the first time that my children had ever seen me cry. I couldn't even imagine the pain my best friend was in.

Tonight, I feel some of that same sadness. To lose a child at an age when you are excited to see him growing into adulthood with all its hopes, dreams, and challenges ... just so very, very sad.

I was out Christmas shopping tonight and decided to make a late night fast food run before I came home. Seeing my kids diving into the food and hearing "Thanks Dad" was such a comfort on this sad, cold night. Across town, some other parents were not quite so fortunate ...


Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Great post!

9:06 AM  
Blogger PokahDave said...

That can make a person change a whole outlook on life. It's a sad thing to hear about anybody that young passing away. Great Post....Happy Holidays regardless.

4:16 PM  
Blogger muhctim said...

Wow. What a post. Tragedy touches us all. Sometimes my own words or thoughts at such times seem so feeble in the face of such sorrow for those who have lost their loved family member, particularly a child. It is one of the life axioms: Parents are not supposed to bury their children. We are all touched by it somewhere, some closer than others. Twenty years ago I watched my parents bury my brother under similar circumstances. There were so many kind people who stepped up . . .I don't remember anything that was particularly said, but I am greatful for all of their presences at that difficult time. I am sure, somewhere inside, your friend is happy to have such friends.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Cynthia Taylor said...

The problem is his friends, the mistake is not the problem

4:19 PM  

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