You don’t remember much about that afternoon. The knock at the door, the police officer’s face. You were screaming. You don’t remember if the day was sunny or overcast, and you don’t remember your child leaving the house or where he was going. You don’t remember if you said you loved him, but you’ve got to believe you did.
With this sort of cause of death, it is shame, more than halacha, that motivates the family to expedite the funeral.
You rushed to the hospital with jumbled feelings you still cannot sort out. When you met the doctor outside the emergency room, you knew it was too late. It was there, 30 feet from your child’s body, that you heard the words cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy used in reference to him. You’ve heard it all before, but it was “them”, not “us”. This happens everywhere, you were told. Drug abuse and addiction is an equal opportunity disease, affecting anyone with equally destructive results. You’ve heard that before, too, but believed it referred to someone else. Overdose. Shocking. Alien. Frightening. It killed your child.
Tachrichim, shrouds, are worn only at death, and can be made in smaller sizes.
Arrangements can be made for a funeral procession to pass by the child’s school. A hesped, or eulogy, is usually given at the funeral, telling the public how great the niftar was. What is said of the drug addict?
When you finally entered his room, it was well past midnight. Drugs? Your child was getting high? What could you have missed? He wasn’t going to yeshiva lately, but spoke to his rebbe often. Some of his friends were sons of roshei yeshiva. Drugs? Not this group. On the floor, his CD/tape player with irritating music you couldn’t stand. You hesitated before opening his drawer. No needles, but rolled up dollar bills. A razor blade. Looks benign. His tefillin on the dresser. His hat and jacket in the closet, not been used for months. But drugs? You didn’t know the signs. You couldn’t have noticed them; you didn’t know. You closed the door behind you. It will be two years before you go in again.
After the shiva, you wondered whether you should hide the pictures of your child that were displayed around the house. Were his memories an embarrassment?
Your child’s school held a memorial gathering for the shloshim. You went, reluctantly. His classmates and friends approached you and gave you their tearful condolences. Some you recognized, most you didn’t. They spoke of starting a scholarship fund in your child’s name. You couldn’t listen. Your mind kept wandering. Was the person who supplied him with his fatal dose present? No one came forth. Knowing your son, born into a G-d fearing, wonderful, Torah dedicated family, it could have been anyone.
You’ve heard the hype about drugs in the frum community, some of the rumors, and you knew there was some fact behind the commotion. You also read about the dangers of drugs, marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and even alcohol. You wondered about the free flowing alcohol at kiddushim and simchas, and especially the bars at simchas and fund raising dinners.
For weeks, the phone didn’t stop ringing. Family, friends, rabbonim, and various community leaders called. All said they couldn’t believe what they heard. One of the kids who was with your child when he died called. He cried and said he was real sorry. He said your child smoked grass a lot, and was a newcomer to harder drugs. He said he had experimented himself, but didn’t like it. But your child did. They had discussed the dangers of drugs, and your child said that it couldn’t happen to him.
You didn’t know what to believe. You were numb from shock, and heard yourself echo the belief that it couldn’t happen to us. You wonder who was the victim. All you knew was that whatever was said was not enough to stop the problem or to prevent the next korbon.
Could this describe your child? Most parents would prefer to not even think of it. But you should. Drugs have infiltrated the frum communities across the country. True numbers are not known, but the risk is to everyone. Availability of illegal drugs is staggering, and limits on alcohol are not commonplace. Much is being done, but we still lack adequate knowledge, communication, and resources. Denial still plagues the best of us. As we remedy this, we will be zocheh, b’esras Hashem, that this story will no longer be ours.