the world still to come

TRIGGER WARNING: Overdose, Death

A friend of my son’s passed away unexpectedly on the weekend from a drug overdose. The cause of his accidental death is not being said in hushed tones, the way it once would have been. It was shared openly today in his obituary. He was 22.

He’d visited our house a number of times when we still lived in that small town, and I remember dropping my son off at his house once, for a party. He was one of many kids who passed through our door over the years with my son – who has always found the deepest kinship with those who struggle, and those the system casts out. Often, they’re one and the same.

Though I didn’t know him well, I haven’t stopped thinking about him and his family since my son texted me with this news on Saturday morning. I stared for a long time at his face today – looking back at me from its disquieting position at the top of the obituary page. It’s true that you don’t have to know someone well to be stopped by the news of their sudden absence on this earth.

This hits close to home, and I guess I feel unexpectedly rattled by it. It’s similar to the way I felt when a boy in my daughter’s graduating class at high school died by suicide just weeks before their graduation. And, it’s similar to that feeling from 35 years ago when the rebel boy who sat in front of me in Mr. Koch’s Grade 10 math class drowned that summer day at the quarry. It stirs the feelings of losing my own brother, who died at 36 in a car accident, but who was also no stranger to addiction in his short life.

These deaths, all of them, share an agonizing senselessness. They mess with the natural order of things. When you’re 22, you’re supposed to have so many more years ahead of you. But we know now that there will be nothing beyond that for the boy whose obituary talks about his kind heart – except our lingering expectation that there should have been more.

This has me thinking about the grace of God. And, it has me thinking about how it’s mostly loss that teaches us about the worth of things. And how the ruthless portal of death seems to be the greatest teacher of all.

The people we love are our life’s greatest gifts. They teach us to love like we’ve never loved before. Their deaths, in turn, often teach us to suffer as we’ve never suffered before. And then, from the world still to come, somewhere down the road when we’re finally ready, our beloveds start to teach us again – about acceptance. And after that, about forgiveness. They teach us that they don’t have to be living and breathing and standing in front of us to be among our life’s most profound revelations. We can create something of them still. We can honour them by taking the best of them forward and amplifying that out there in the world.

I hope beyond hope that this boy’s family finds their way to a place like that one day. A peace like that. And, at the very least, I hope they know that no one can touch the love you shared or alter it or take it away from you. That love belongs only to you. And it’ll live in you until the day you die.

And in the world still to come.

I hope beyond hope that young people make something of the message this beautiful boy left you — through his life and his death. I hope you let him open your eyes. And your hearts and minds. The opioid crisis is real. And it’s deadly. Please stay.

2 thoughts on “the world still to come”

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