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If only they all understood

Don Rogers

If only they all understood

Don Rogers

Life is precious. Kids just don’t know.

Some – too many – heedlessly live lives full of risk. They drive too fast. They get too high. Dance on a bridge railing at night over the dark Eagle River. They think they are bullet-proof, or just don’t realize that they aren’t. Or think about it at all. They’re here and so they’ll always be. Right?

Never mind occasional evidence to the contrary. The car crash on the freeway. Driving off a cliff on the way back from Piney past midnight. Overdosing during a party and just not waking up at all. The rocks, trees and terrain parks are far from the only obstacles a few – too many – take all too lightly.

Life is precious. And don’t parents know it.

They survived adolescence and early adulthood, a particularly dangerous time in modern American lives. Chances are they’ve lost classmates along the way. To boating accidents, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, perhaps in less pedestrian ways, too. Drownings, drugs, falls, and for some generations, war. There are a lot of ways to die when you are young.

Parents know about the parties in the woods, the alcohol, drugs, cars and that blinding exhilaration of life that strikes most powerfully just when you are most vulnerable.

They’ve been there and they understand their children will be there, too. So they live with an ever-present whiff of fear, hoping it couldn’t happen to their kid, could it?

Life is precious. So why, why do some of us – too many – take our own lives?

It’s tough enough when an adult ends their own life. That’s tragic. What makes life, something nearly all of us yearn to somehow survive, so unbearable for these few that they must end it now?

Almost nothing is so bad as it might seem at a given moment. Don’t they know this? How did they come to forget for these fateful few moments it took to end it all? The living world has many survivors of such dark moments who later found the light and lived fulfilling lives.

Why couldn’t our friend, family member or loved one have possessed just enough perspective to allow the moment to pass? Always, there’s guilt. What could we have done to perhaps have shown that person enough of a glimmer? The answer, sadly, is almost always nothing.

Life is precious. Some kids – too many – just do not understand that.

When a child takes his or her own life, as happened last week, the wound to an entire community is raw. This pain is searing even beyond the circle of family and friends who feel it most of all.

How does a kid find perspective out of that awful moment that moves him or her to end life before it’s had a chance to flower? How does that kid understand that truly great lives have emerged out of difficult childhoods, people who in adulthood made a real difference in the world around them? Or survivors of the moment who live ordinary lives, happier and more productive than they could have dreamed in adolescence, with children of their own to worry about now?

Life is precious. It just takes living to figure that out.

I remember a long time ago looking over a bridge crossing the Ala Wai Canal in Honolulu, under a street light contemplating the dark water flowing out to sea, mentally dancing on the railing. Stay or leave? I suspect that this question comes for many, many people – too many, perhaps – during that turbulent twilight between child and adulthood. Then again, maybe it’s normal.

I don’t recall precisely what made life seem as dark as the midnight water, though I think it had a lot to do with a general sense of inadequacy, being young and too awkward with, god, everything. Surely no one on earth felt this dumb, this lonely, this lost, this purposeless, this useless. Why bother? I’m a burden.

What kept me from going over the edge? A flicker of hope amid all that adolescent drama that life has ups as well as downs. Faith that there is purpose even if I don’t happen to see it at the time. Fear of what lies beyond. A compact with God by the mere act of being alive that I’m supposed to carry it out.

All of that, I’m sure. And something else, ineffable, an inarticulate realization while thinking about what is taboo.

Life is precious. Kids just don’t know.

I crossed that bridge and left those waters. Now, contemplating youth and life and suicide from this side, I wonder how we help all our children across. Is that possible? If only they understood.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.com


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