Dealing With Death In High School

For the second time this school year, our high school suffered a death in the student body.  Dealing with death in high school is unfortunate, but not new.  What is different I suppose is the way generations handle the loss both in person and on social media.

During the last week of the summer a boy in 16.5’s junior class killed himself.  We live in a small school district and the kids were clearly upset.  (I tend to think some of the energy spent on grieving was reflective of others in the grade.)  Instagram accounts were full of tributes to the boy.  On the community pages on Facebook there was sometimes (in my opinion) over wrought hand wringing asking how could this happen here? How could the signs be missed?

A couple of weeks ago, as winter break was ending tragedy struck 14.5’s freshman class when a boy was rundown (accidentally) crossing a major roadway near our house.   There’s probably more to the story – but you can see the reaction of the kids in all of the grades at the high school the loss was felt.

When I took 14.5 and some of her friends to the corner 24 hours after the accident to leave flowers and remember their friend – each took out their phone and commemorated the moment on Snapchat.  Back on the community pages of Facebook was the same hand wringing asking how could this happen here?  In this case, there was also a link to an accident a couple of years ago that claimed another life.

Perhaps – one day – the intersection will be made safer.  Perhaps one day the lessons of the immediate past will be learned and used.

For now though dealing with death in high school is a generational process – and it plays out across social media.  I can think back to my high school days, I can remember four of my classmates passing during my years at Carey High School on Long Island.  One was murdered, one (maybe two) died from cancer and one was in a car accident.

Dealing with death in high school in the 80’s though was (in my opinion) a much more solemn moment – not commemorated with pictures and posts – but with shared memories and a few hugs.

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Triggers and Reactions

problems-triggers-reactions-understanding-adI guess you never really know what will set you off and how you’ll react to it.  Triggers and reactions are probably near daily occurrences – and some are probably predictable and others can spin you around.

Some are predictable.  For me, walking by a pizza place generally means I’ll be hungry.  Walking by (as opposed to grabbing a slice) is a measure of success in managing the trigger.

Some triggers and reactions are relational.  Seeing a concert (I was at Dead and Company last weekend) usually triggers a party atmosphere where a fun time can be had.  I suppose how much fun you have is a way to measure that trigger’s impact.

Situational triggers and reactions occur as well.  No matter how tired I am when I drag into the gym I get going and the environment gets me through the hour (or so) I am there.  Although the measure could easily be the quality of the workout, I prefer to gauge the success on how I feel three hours later – if my energy or focus is better after the workout.

Other times triggers and reactions aren’t as easily defined.  The measure of success is equally ill-defined.

There are moments I can be thrown back to the morning when my father died by simply seeing an ambulance in front of a house with its doors open.  There are times I can be back on the corner my brother was hit by a car simply driving by a car accident.   Forty plus years later my reactions to these triggers are sometimes a deep breath – but rarely more than the imagery.

Other moments in time have triggers and reactions that are a bit more raw and tougher to manage and measure.  Those are the moments that will one day be a deep inhale – but today can be just about anything.

I’m not sure if measuring and managing those triggers and reactions is the best plan – but it’s what I do and sometimes it’s harder than others.

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Live Life When You Can

While I am not completely sure I needed the reminder, I got one today:  Live life while you can.

In a back to back kind of way today, I heard of the fates of two people I consider a friend-meaning more than just knowing them professionally that has really played with my inner self a bit.

First is a meteorologist named Rich Hoffman at the News 12 Networks in New York.  Rich is a contemporary of mine, maybe a few years younger, but he’s been through the wringer of local television and moving station to station, market to market and he’s someone during my second Cablevision career who I could talk to about that.

Now, Rich is a runner and athletic.  He’s done a triathlon and as of earlier this month he’s had open heart surgery to replace a valve.  I am not sharing anything at this point that Rich has not shared on his Facebook, so I think I am OK. Today, via Rich’s Facebook, he is going back in for another procedure.

Take a pause.

Today, I also learned of another friend (via professional circumstance) Ken Reeves from AccuWeather.  So, Ken went out with a friend (and a friend of mine) on Sunday and played two hours of racquetball and by what was described to me had a good time.  He went home and decided to take his Christmas lights down-and tragically fell.  Ken was only 50 years old and married less than a year.

Take another pause.

I have never had the belief I could actually understand the way life works.  In my life-from the passing of my father, to the death of my younger brother to the long battle with cancer of my wife-and all of the other “course of life and death” events in between have seen a lot.  And I wish I could understand any of it.  I readily admit I don’t.

Still today-this juxtaposition of life and death is a lot, and I don’t mind saying has kind of messed with me some.

Life can’t be as random as it seems can it? Yet it is.

I have a second (I think second) cousin who at around age three had faced more in life than most people ever do-and yet he is a survivor now.  And frankly an inspiration.  When the alarm goes off at 4:15 and I am off to the gym, I think about people like my cousin who fight for their life and it makes it easier to do what I have to do to be alive longer….

But still, as Ken found out, and as I can only imagine Rich is wondering, there are no guarantees.  Do all of the right things and then it’s random.

Life isn’t easy for sure.  But it can’t be this complicated, can it?


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