Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Season of Proms, High School Graduations, Drunk Driving and Prayers

Hundreds of teenagers sat in hushed silence this morning as the high school football coach shared  about how 20 years ago his brother, then 29, was airlifted to a trauma center after being hit by a drunken driver one Friday night. The brother had not been out drinking; he was returning home with friends after time spent at a batting cage. 

Tonight at the New Jersey public high school where I teach, the seniors will go to a catering hall a few towns away for their prom. Today, they got some life lessons on how youthful decisions can lead to lifelong pain.

The coach, now in his forties with three children of his own, said the worst came when his family was asked to gather into a room at the trauma center, where a social worker, the head of the trauma unit,  and a priest were waiting. There, they learned the beloved child, husband, and brother, was brain dead.

"People said a lot of things, but I will never never forget what the priest said," the coach told the teens this morning. "He told my mother 'You brought your son into the world and now it is time to let him go.' My mother screamed 'No! I will take his place!' 'That isn't how it works,' the priest told her."

This is "prime time" for alcohol-related fatalities. According to a survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than a third of youth under the age of 21 killed in alcohol-related fatalities in 2001 died during the months of April, May and June, prom and graduation season. I am sure that the 2012 statistics will be no different.

"I don't know statistics and I don't care about statistics," the coach told the assembly. "I only care about one statistic, my brother." He pointed to the overhead screen, where a photo of the slim, bearded brother was displayed.  

As a parent, I couldn't help but tear up as the coach told his family's story. I remember being relieved when my sons learned to swim, thinking one potential fatal accident had been checked off the list. But life offers many opportunities and many dangers. While I don't worry about our sons drowning, each stage has brought its own joys and worries. I pray that our our efforts to instill our sons with integrity and common sense will stick.

In the end, however, no matter how hard we try to shield them from danger, we have to trust our children's destiny to the Mystery who called us into being. This isn't always easy. 

O Holy Spirit, give me stillness of soul in you.

Calm the turmoil within, with the gentleness of your peace.
Quiet the anxiety within, with a deep trust in you.
Heal the wounds of sin within, with the joy of your forgiveness.
Strengthen the faith within, with the awareness of your presence.
Confirm the hope within, with the knowledge of your strength.
Give fullness to the love within, with an outpouring of your love.

O Holy Spirit, be to me a source of light, strength and courage

so that I may hear your call ever more clearly
and follow you more generously.


  1. What a story for him to share. I imagine it's not easy even after all these years. Thanks for sharing it here. I love the last line of your prayer. "O Holy Spirit, be to me a source of light, strength and courage so that I may hear your call ever more clearly and follow you more generously."