For the second time this year I have learned of the Very Unexpected Death of an acquaintance's child. Very Unexpected Deaths are not what we consider natural, not from illness or accident in the usual sense. Their obituaries do not give the cause.
These children were in their teens or early twenties. And they are almost always male. My psychologist sister-in-law used to tell me that this is a very high risk group. Actually the highest risk of all. The pressures of maturing combined with the dissatisfaction that is inherent in "angry young men" make a deadly mix. Furthermore, mass communications, even the Internet, itemize, analyze, and (worst of all) romanticize these early deaths. For a child who is agonizing over the difficulties of growing up, death can appear an attractive solution to what must appear to be insurmountable troubles. Perhaps the finality of death does not dissuade, but rather encourage them.
Now everyone seems to know someone who has lost a son in this manner. What I find most upsetting of all is this: of the children I have known, all have very caring, attentive parents. These were not neglected, abused or cast aside in any way. I don't doubt there were problems. After all, look at the age group. The teen years are synonymous with conflict. But the fact is the mother of the victims I've known are loving, hardworking women, who continually strive to provide for their children.
And that's what makes this scary. And even sadder, if that were possible. The wolf is at the door, and there is no chasing it away. Our children are in danger, and we need to act, act, act, accordingly. No clues can be ignored, every suspicion must be investigated, and every opportunity to convince our children of their preciousness to us must be taken as a call to action. And that may still not be enough. So what can we do?
If my child is in trouble, I can seek professional help. If you are reading this, you can go to a search engine (try Google) and type in the problem. For the phone, the community pages in the local phone book have listings for just about everything. Public service announcements on radio and television usually give contact numbers.
Do it now, before the crisis hits. Any hint of trouble can be your opportunity to prevent irrevocable action on a teenager's part. And if the child protests or even ridicules you for it, well, at least you know that the kid knows you know something is wrong.
And pray. Sometimes that is all we can do. For those of us who knew those boys, that is all that's left to do. Cherish the memories of a couple of good kids in happier days. Try to offer condolences to their bereft families today. And pray we can find the wisdom to act should we see anything, anything at all, that may point to a repetition of the tragedy. I have to go to work now, but before I do, I think I'll call my kids. They are working, too. I need to tell them (or leave a message) that I love them and that they can come to me with anything, anytime, ever.