Young death teaches a lesson

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A couple of weeks ago, I was at work when a woman carrying a stack of bright pink papers came up to me with a look.

Her face was tired, her eyes red from a day of crying, and I immediately knew she was a mother.

She frantically handed me two sheets of paper, telling me there was a missing person in the area, and asked if I would put them up where people could see. I nodded as she left and, through the window, I watched her run to the business next door, repeating what she had been doing all day long.

When I turned the paper over, Wade Lurk's senior pictures stared back at me, and I just stood there, saying a silent prayer to myself. It's an odd habit I have, especially since I don't consider myself to be a very religious person. But when something tragic happens in a person's life, my initial reaction, like everyone else's, is to hope for things to turn out OK in the end.

Two weeks later, when I heard the news and saw the images of Wade's muddy car being pulled from the lake, I thought of the mother I met just days before. She may have not been Wade's mother, but the effort and tears she put into his search made me realize she had children of her own.

She no longer had to hand out sheets of paper to strangers. She could stop worrying whether or not he had been kidnapped. Everyone finally knew what happened to Wade, and that's all his friends and family ever wanted. There could now be some sort of peace and, if you think about it, peace is certainly an OK thing to have in the end.

Although I never knew Wade, the events leading up to his tragic end made me realize just how tangible death is. Like every teenager out during the weekend, he was just having a good time with his buddies. The end of high school was approaching, and a whole new world of opportunities was going to open for him, so the time to cut loose was now -- especially before everyone went off to separate colleges.

And if parents don't know by now, most teens do drink in spite of what years of lecturing have told them. Much like Wade, I too was drinking by 17, never giving a second thought to the consequences of ingesting too much alcohol. I was young and ignorant, and these two traits, combined with beer and liquor, never have a desirable outcome.

That day two weeks ago, when I was handed those sheets of paper, I wanted to give this woman a hug and tell her things were going to be all right. I wanted to give her some kind of reassurance that those pink sheets of recycled paper were going to be the key to a happy ending. I wanted her to know something good.

Wade Lurk may have been lost in a senseless accident, but perhaps the reality of a young life ending in such a way will encourage responsibility in other teenagers.

I hope that truly is the case because, in the end, things really will turn out OK.

Sam DeReign is a student at Southeast Missouri State University.Contact him at

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