Losing the battle at such a young age

Late yesterday afternoon I attended the memorial service for a 17-year-old young man from Champaign who lost his battle with mental illness.  Late last week in a tragic act of desperation he ended his life.

About 500 friends quietly gathered to hear the young man memorialized.  He was remembered as a person who was brilliant in math, great at chess, quite the cook and a real prankster.  But he also was a person who struggled mightily with his mental health from an early age. It was noted that his parents had tried everything — given him the best health care available, shown him incredible patience, loved him deeply and never lost hope.

Five or six people, including his father, friends and camp counselors shared how much he meant to them, how much they loved him, how he made them laugh and how much he will be missed. 

The room was filled with young teens and 45-50 year-old adults.

From listening to the officiate, listening to people share memories and watching the somber faces, it was pretty clear that everybody felt robbed.  The young man got robbed.  His family got robbed. His friends got robbed.  The world got robbed.

The officiant quoted the famous line from the Dylan Thomas poem:  “Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”  He told the congregants to grieve, to feel sad, to rage.  “Everybody got robbed,” he said.  “Everyone feels terrible.  It is not the way it is supposed to be.”

Following the service, I slowly walked back to my car.  I noticed a 30-something man with wavy black hair playing with a 5 or 6 year-old boy out in a yard at a house near the church where the service was held.  Both were laughing. The soft light from the early evening filled the yard.

When I lowered myself into my car these verses from Ecclesiastes came to mind:

Ecclesiastes 7:2-3

It is better to go to a funeral
    than to a party.
We all must die,
    and everyone living should think about this.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    and sadness has a good influence on you.
New Century Version 

And then I just sat in my car for maybe 2 or 3 minutes, weeping and feeling just awful for the young man’s family. So sad.  So very, very sad.

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