Funerals generally are an occasion for sadness, even when we recognize that with death there may come freedom from pain and suffering. The sadness usually is an expression of our loss, not having the friend or relative to be around and interact with any longer. Sometimes the death comes suddenly rendering us unprepared to accept the reality of it. At others, death comes slowly after months or even years of realizing the eventual outcome. Perhaps no funeral is any more difficult than the one we attended Friday where parents buried one of their children.
Their son was 33 years old, but the image in my mind as I sat in church was the freckle-faced kid with his shock of blond hair that seemed to be always sticking up. He was three years younger than his sister, and our daughter, and I could see him following behind and trying to keep up with the two girls. They included him in their activities when the families got together, but he always seemed to be somewhat a fringe player. He was participating but then again he did not seem to be really. Perhaps, it was the differences in age or maturity between him and the two girls. Perhaps, it was his shyness, but as the children grew into teens my impression did not seem to change. The shyness seemed to change to aloofness. I found it difficult to engage him in conversation. He always seemed to be more interested in the games he was playing on television than what was going on in the room.
As the children grew and family and business activities became more complex, the 500-plus mile trips for the families to get together became less frequent. However, we stayed in contact and provided updates on the kids as they went through school and started their careers and their own families. I interpreted from my friendís communications over the years his pride in his daughterís accomplishments and frustration in his sonís ability to find himself. He did not seem to connect in school with what may be considered the mainstream. He was not involved in athletics, band or theater. He and his friends were a part of the ďotherĒ group. Every generation of high school students seems to have them, the names and descriptions change but they make up a part of every school population.
In an enterprise story on crime in Brown County published in the Bulletin several weeks ago, local law enforcement officials said there is a recurring pattern of criminal behavior among some residents. Judges in the county recognize defendants coming before them from previous trips to court.
To interpret this to mean there is a criminal element living in the area may be too strong, but there is evidence to support the view that a portion of the population impact crime statistics disproportionately to their percentage of the population. The other side of this behavior pattern is the individuals involved tend to get considerably more attention from law enforcement officials.
I heard from my friend that his son had bouts with alcohol and some drug use during the period he was in high school. His dad got him an after school job at the newspaper. I think it was as much to help his son distance himself from just hanging out with friends as it was to provide him with spending money. However, the newspapers sold to another company and with the changes in management they both lost their jobs. There seemed to be a sense in talking with him after that his son found it difficult to escape the stigma of his earlier behavior. He grew increasingly bitter towards law enforcement officials and the community at large.
The funeral service at Sacred Heart Catholic Church was very well done and a large contingent of young people attended both the church and graveside services. He died of natural causes brought on by acute pancreatic inflammation, most likely caused by his lifestyle. We pained deeply for our friendsí grief, I know they were asking if there was something they could have done to alter their sonís path in life and his death that took so much unrealized potential.
Robert Brincefield is publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.