Suicide and Alcohol use in the youth of America - Why is it the good that pass far too young?
Updated again March 20, 2013
UPDATED AGAIN MARCH 20, 2013
Again, I am forced to update this hub due to the illogical death of another youth in my community. A student who rides one of the buses in my school district which I am responsible for. I received an email and was the one to call my driver to give them the sad news. An 8th grade student committed suicide by hanging himself in his family home. Another tragedy for the youth of our country that has no sense to be made of it; no comfort to be found; no one to explain it to us. We do not know of any bullying, or depression. My driver advised me that the boy was bright and good natured, and had given him no problems on the bus at all. I cannot understand what drives our youth to feel that they have no other course of action beyond taking their lives. Do they not understand we are there for them? Do they not know we care; that we love them more than anything else on the face of this earth?
Why is it the good that pass far too young?
I am updating this hub on Wednesday morning, November 21, 2012. It is the day before Thanksgiving; also the day before my 53rd birthday. This past Saturday, I received a call from one of my bus drivers late in the afternoon. My wife and I were about to leave for the evening, on our way to watch two of our children perform in the musical Bye Bye Birdie at the high school. The caller identified herself, and I could tell immediately something had happened. Another of our bus driver's son had been killed in an accident. A bright sunny day full of promise and happiness immediately went dark. He was 18 years old, had just graduated from this same high school six months ago. He was traveling too fast on a gravel road, lost control, and ran off the road and into an embankment. He was ejected from the car, and effectively died on impact. The mother was inconsolable, as were her mother, and two aunts who also drive for me. Virtually every driver who works for me has been affected, and the department and entire school district are in mourning. I had a hard time enjoying my own children and their musical. Our son had the lead, playing Conrad Birdie. I could smile, but the full enjoyment was seriously dampened by the news I had received just prior to leaving.i
Why? The overriding question of why kept hammering at me. Why had this young man, full of hope, promise, and a family's love been taken even before he had much of a chance to fulfill those hopes and promises? What made this time of driving, on a road near his home and had been driven countless times before, different? Why had this moment in time been chosen to take him home to Heaven? No answers were forthcoming.
I though back to my youth, and the times I drove altogether too fast both for the road and the circumstances. One I described, in humorous words, in my hub "I never said I was the smartest kid in the class". That story ended in a light hearted manner. Another drive had minor repercussions. I was traveling to a city some 40 miles away to drop off some boxes to be sent via air. My time to get there was short, but I drove. Fast. The majority of the way I was in excess of 100 mph. I covered the mileage in under 30 minutes. Through three towns and their reduced speed, I still covered that 40 mile trek in under a half hour. In the city I was going to, I pulled up to the first stop light and blew my front left tire. Had that happened five minutes earlier....
Another night I was not traveling fast, but fate intervened anyway. A driver coming around a corner swerved into my lane, forcing me off the road. It was late at night, and it was dark. All I could see as I went off the road was a driveway and trees. I caught the edge of the driveway with the right side of my car, the other side hanging in midair. I missed the large trees along the drive somehow, and came to rest in a church parking lot. The other driver never slowed down.
I slowed my driving down after these occurances. But still I saw what could happen. One night, while fishing on a lake in our area, some of us had come back in near midnight to warm up. About ten of us were standing near a fire when we heard tires screaming. Our heads whipped around and we saw the unusual circumstance of headlights traveling sideways down the highway. A crash was heard, and the headlights began tumbling in midair. Another crash saw these lights land back on the earth and tumble a few more times before coming to rest. One of the fisherman and I were flying through the night on our way to the crash site before the truck had come to rest. Inside my mind I steeled myself for finding someone dead there. We covered the hundred yards or so in seconds, and found ourselves looking down at a man protruding from the passenger side of the truck as it lay upside down. We both thought he was dead. His body was surrounded by rocks, snug us against his body; from his knees to his head lay head sized rocks. Then, he moved. We sent someone down to the docks to call 911. We spoke to him, telling him to lay still, that help was on the way. I looked around and took in the scene. He had been drinking, with both full and empty cans laying around; he had not been wearing a seat belt; and he had been carrying a diesel engine in the bed of his truck and it was scattered all along the tumble path leading from the road and guardrail he had hit to where he lay some hundred feet off the road. Another fifty feet would have seen him land in the lake. When the paramedics arrived, he was found to be basically intact. No broken bones evident, no trauma of any kind. A few bumps and bruises were the extent of his injuries.
This morning I wonder: what made that man so special? What made me so special? Why were we spared destruction, and this wonderful young man not? I did not know him, but I know his mother; his grandmother; his two aunts. They are clinging to their minds today by a thread, their sanity threatened by this "accident". What reasons could be given to justify this? I know we cannot understand the workings of God; but still I wonder. I will pick up my copy of "The Shack" again and read it to try and acclimate myself to it. The family are Christian people, and have the support of the community to rely on. But tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and what thanks will be offered? I feel so badly for this family, and will pray for their peace of mind and hearts tomorrow. But still, I will wonder. Please read onto see what I originally wrote here on this hub.
Elsewhere, I have written about a family member who took his life at age 23. It was a poem, if you want to call it that. I have it on my hubs, should you care to invest a few moments reading it. I call it "A Dedication to a Friend" and it was my first try at writing what was inside of me crying to get out. That was 14 years ago, and I think about him still. I still feel him when the song “Hero” by Mariah Carey comes on. The sound of that single shot echoing across the land will haunt me until I die. Others have passed, some close, others not so close, but their lives touched mine in ways that I will not forget.
One beautiful Sunday at church, my children spent most of the day with a young girl. I’ll not name her, but we had seen her there many times before, and the children seemed to like her. This particular Sunday was the monthly Pot Luck Dinner, so we stayed to eat and enjoyed some fellowship. It was not too long after our family member had taken his life, and our emotions were still somewhat raw, so this was a good day for us. The kids had forgotten, for the moment, our tragedy, and became caught up in the dinner with its festive atmosphere. We spent the morning, afternoon, then evening at the church. The kids spent most of that time with this little girl. I think she was 13 or 14 at the time. Anyway, the day ended well, and we left after the evening services.
The next day, a caller knocked on our door. We opened the door to see a member of our church standing there. We opened the door and invited them in. They asked to be able to speak with us as a group. Concerned, but not too much so, we brought the children into the room and sat down. Without any preamble, we were informed the little girl was dead. She had gone home last night, and taken her father’s pistol out of the closet and shot herself in the head. I was speechless. We began to cry, and held one another. The caller asked the children if she had mentioned anything to them yesterday, anything at all. Between shudders and sobs, they answered. No, nothing much was talked about. Just how school was going, things like that. The caller thanked us, then left.
Now we had to deal with two suicides in people close to us inside of just a few months. The children didn’t understand. They asked me to explain, to answer why. I had no answers to give. How do you explain to a child why a child would take their life?
About a year or so later, I received a call from my oldest son. He was now just about 20, and had learned that one of his friends was missing. I knew the young man myself, having coached him one year in baseball. I also knew his mother. She had been widowed when her husband had taken his life some years ago. She was still yet upset about it, and had spoken with me about it a few times. She was concerned for her son, for she saw the same rage in him that had lived and died in his father. My son went out looking for him in some woods near his house where the young man’s car had been located. It was late, nearing midnight. Many people went out looking for him that night. Nearing four in the morning, they found him. He had hung himself, in the same manner as his father. My son was beside himself in anger, devastation, blame, grief. He felt that he should have known, that he should have been able to help. There was no consoling him for a long time after. The mother of the young man was shattered. First her husband, now their 18 year old son. She didn’t know how to cope, and there were no good answers to give to make sense of a senseless act.
A few years later, while working as a manager at a sporting goods retail store, our store was shocked by two deaths. Both involved young ladies who worked at the store, 18 years old. One a senior, the other just graduated. One due to alcohol directly, the other indirectly. The first had been at a party where teens were drinking. She had had some, as had her boyfriend. She didn’t drive home, but had ridden with him. While exiting the interstate, he ran off the road and flipped the car; killing her, and severely injuring himself. I think afterward he wished he had perished, as well. As manager on duty when the news came in, I was expected to inform our workers as they came on shift, in order to break it as easily as possible, and to allow them to return home if they chose. One in particular was especially difficult. She had been this girl’s best friend, and had not heard yet. After letting her know, the girl had collapsed on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. Another worker and I took her aside and sat with her, trying to console her. We eventually contacted her parents, and they came to take her home.
Less than six months later, she was killed in a car accident along the same highway as her friend. She hadn’t been drinking, but had been at a party with friends, including a young man from the store. She had served as a designated driver for those who had consumed, and had taken several people home. The last to be taken home was the young man from the store. After dropping him off, she was on her way home. It was in the early morning hours, and she fell asleep while driving. She ran off the road and was killed in the accident. Again, I was the manager on duty, informing workers as they arrived. The one that hurt the worst was the last young man she took home. He was adamant that it had been his fault; that he could have driven, but she had insisted; desiring to get him home safely. He felt that had he driven home, she would be alive today. This almost put him into a place that he wouldn’t have recovered from. With a lot of help, he survived, but never healed completely.
Less than six months later, I was watching the news and saw a family that I had worked with some years before. The mother and father, and twin sons and I had all worked at a retail store together while I was learning the management aspect of retail. It happened that their twin sons had turned 21, and the parents had hosted a party for them, involving alcohol. Their farm was outside of town, and had a fence which ran all around it. They asked for, and received, promises that if alcohol was involved in the party, no one would be allowed to leave. All people present promised. Late that night, that promise was broken. Two cars, each containing three people, left. The first car contained one of the twins, along with two young ladies. This one left first. Driving in the night, the twin decided he wanted to car surf. So, he stopped the car and got out, climbing on top of the car. One of the girls began driving. At speeds reportedly up to 80 mph, they ran in the dark. They stopped just over a small rise in the road, and the twin got off. Then, it happened. The second car, driven by a young man who had worked for me in my department, arrived on the scene with the other twin and another young lady. Cresting the slight rise, they slammed into the rear of the other car. The speed was reported as being in excess of 100 mph at impact. The young man who worked for me went through the windshield, and over the car he’d struck. The others in this car were flung out, also. The two girls in the first car were killed on impact. The other twin was the only one not injured, as he was standing on the side of the road at the time. The young man who was driving the second car was in critical condition when I went to see him. When he opened his eyes, and saw it was me, he turned his eyes towards his mother who was setting beside him, and said “Mom, this is the boss I was telling you about. He’s the best boss I’ve ever had.” Then the sedatives overtook him, and he closed his eyes shortly after, and failed to see his mother and I crying, looking at each other, feeling so sad that not just the girls who had died lives were destroyed, but knowing that his would end up badly, as well. He was found guilty of two counts of vehicular homicide, I believe, and sentenced to some years in the state penitentiary. He was only twenty; the young ladies about the same. The twin injured recovered, as did the other young lady. But three out of six lives lost or destroyed. Why do the young pass far too soon into this dark abyss? What can we do to help them avoid this? My hope is that someone reads this, and stops. Just stops. And thinks, “What if it had been me? What if it happened to me…”? If one person does it, and is saved from a fate like those here, then I will be happy.
I fully realize this is a serious hub; one difficult to read. If you made it here, please take away from these words something to change you. Enjoy life, as it is frequently all too short. Take care, and may God bless.