Every Father’s Worst Nightmare

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is that something terrible happens to one of their offspring. After all, as parents we only want three things for our children: that they become independent, that they are happy, and that they stay alive.

 

Every year we hear stories about young adults who lose their lives. Whether they lost their future in a drug overdose, a suicide, or a car accident, the reaction is similar: First, it hits you like walking head-first into a brick wall. Then, you’re numb and lifeless for a while, literally sick to your stomach until the usual five stages of grief take their course.

As a parent, you can’t help but put some blame on yourself: if only I insisted more on this or that, but the reality is that despite our best efforts we can’t protect our kids from harm forever. Like an old slide projector, scenes from the past illuminate your mind, the times you coached soccer or shared their pain when they came home with a broken arm or the smiles you shared when they mastered their first bike ride. And then the big empty sets in. 

Nothing seems to make sense anymore. You question the purpose of your own life now that your child left the earth long before their time. And you wish you could have taken their place, gladly giving your own life to save their’s—after all they were supposed to be the future, the ones that would succeed us.

Most often when we read or hear about these tragedies, they belong to a statistic: More than 16,000 teenagers die each year in the USA. But sometimes the news strikes closer to home—like the classmate of one your child, or a family in your neighborhood. 

 A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have a three hour talk with one of our most valued contributors. We talked about life and work and where the news industry is headed. And, of course, our kids. As parents, we talk about our kids even to strangers in the grocery store. He told me his son was home on summer break from college working at a local company.. On Sunday he and his wife lost their son in a tragic car accident… and suddenly it is lights out, not just for them but for everyone that is close to them. We stand around bewildered and helpless, grieving with them and wishing that there is something more we could do.