First, we grieve.
Two young boys, friends just 13, died here this week, days apart. They enjoyed their skateboards and dirt bikes and stuff newly teenage boys enjoy. They did not die from a car crash or a fire or a terminal illness. They died from bad judgement. From making a bad decision they thought they could outlive. There is no indication they meant to die from experimenting with a dangerous substance that they did not know was highly lethal.
There will be time enough for the conversations about drugs in our schools/our community/the times we live. Brutal, tough conversations, perhaps finally now, about the number of deaths in the past two years in our town, of young people under the age of 30, that were all opiate related. Deaths whose cause have been whispered about but not discussed. Because make no mistake — these two boys were part of an epidemic here of massive drug abuse in our town among young people.
And there might even be blame to be dealt to who supplied the drugs to those children. We all carry a piece of the burden for not paying closer attention to the neighbor’s kid. Not asking questions when we understood there to be changes in their friends and lifestyle choices. There will be time for all those questions to be asked.
But for now, just for this week, we grieve. With one heart we mourn the dead child that could have been ours, because they all make questionable choices — even bad choices — and by some measure of grace most survive. We open our hearts to those moms and dads who will spend the rest of their lives grieving their sons, their boys who will not grow into men.
We need to stop talking about what makes a community and be a community. Nobody needs another casserole — they need compassion. A handwritten note. A single flower, hand delivered. A full-bodied hug. And what each of the families needs is that you not forget them — three weeks from now, three months, three years — after all the attention and stories have faded from the news cycle.
Every day the school is trying to educate students in the basic subjects and in basic living skills to keep them safe. The teachers work impossibly hard — Bob and Julie and Nancy — to provide them with educational tools and basic living tools, even, often, personal hygiene products. The superintendent, Ember, takes her tender heart to work each day and tries to find where fair intersects with fear. And how to help the students and teachers and parents navigate the choppy waters of adolescence. Our police chief, Wade, and fire chief, Paul, and our sheriff, Justin — and their staff — try to holster emotions and wrangle the real bad guys and redirect the real dumb guys. The delicate balance in a resort community is a complicated dance between law and leisure.
Mistakes kill us. And dumb decisions kill us. And ill winds kill us. And fate kills us. And old age. And disease. Adolescence wasn’t meant to kill us. Maim us a little, yes. Toughen us. Define us. Bruise us. Inform us. But never actually kill us.
And the platitudes….” You’ll feel better in time.” “God’s will.” “ Better place.” Stop! Just be sad with these families. Cry with each other. Acknowledge this is rare and abnormal and out of the order of the universe. Hold each other. Touch is good. Let your children see you sad. Let them see how it would break you to have them gone. Let them know they can talk to you about the messy stuff. Or they can talk to another adult. There are bunches in town — at school, at various organizations and churches and charities and the neighborhood — who are ready with a hug and a beverage and a conversation. Everything is fixable if you share the problem. It is the bottled up stuff that creates the pressure that seeks release.
We can’t heal if we can’t grieve. Hearts filled with heavy sorrow are painful but not empty. Young boys who lived among us just days ago are forever gone now and we need to grieve them — and grieve with — each other.
The boys were friends. Grant and Ryan. They belonged to us here in Park City. They grew up here. Played on our streets, rode bikes on the jumps, skateboarded uptown. They were floppy-haired boys in sweatshirts that last week looked like all the other floppy-haired boys in sweatshirts.
And now they are dead.
To everything there is a season, the Bible tells us. “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn …” This week we should allow sadness to cloud our conversations. We should acknowledge there are apparent mysteries that cannot be understood by a forensics report. Layers of mystery and decisions and judgements and perhaps eventually somewhere, grace. The grace that will lead us home. Together. Not yet, not today, but somewhere down a mountain road….some Sunday in our Park…