Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Just Don't Die

Our son's university had a three-day student/parent orientation.  At the end of the first day, move-in day, my husband and I attended a cocktail party for alumni parents and donors from the Southeast.  I was having a very pleasant conversation with a few other moms I'd just met, talking about all the advice we were nobly refraining from giving our children, and I said, "Of course, I can sum it all up in two words: Don't Die."

The other mothers looked at me very, very strangely.

Oh, I thought, lucky you.  You must never have been to a funeral in a church packed to the ells, where parents I'd known since the days of preschool and t-ball looked, like me, suddenly ten years older.  You must have been spared seeing your worst nightmare being lived out in front of you by people who were, at heart, exactly like you.  Good for you, then.  May you always be spared.

I thought of that again last week, when a lovely young woman--a stranger to me, but by all accounts, a lovely young woman, an honors student, who graduated from one of our local high schools two years ago--died in a nightclub in D.C.  She'd taken a dose of ecstacy, a drug that's often rationalized as "safe."  To her family's immense credit, they spoke publically with grace about the circumstances surrounding their child's death.  They don't know, they said, whether this was something she habitually did, or whether she was trying the drug for the first time.  It didn't matter.  She was dead.  Please spread the word, they said, so that someone else's child might be saved.

The circumstances are not the same.  The funeral I attended was the result of sheer accident; a drug overdose, while accidental, still comes from a personal choice.  I know that.  I also know that all of us make poor choices.  I know that nothing guarantees our lives; that we work toward eternity in heaven, not on earth.  Yet the moment we become parents we also become holy horcruxes: for the rest of our lives, a piece of our soul inhabits someone else's body.  So I pray for my children.  Don't die.