So…. I mentioned a few days ago that I’m going through things. Papers, cards, letters, and myriad keepsakes like ticket stubs and receipts. And one of the things I came across was a copy of a newspaper article from 25 years ago. The Wall Street Journal, to be specific.
25 years ago, I was a receptionist in a small financial office. And every day we’d receive the Journal, and I’d peruse the front page before I brought it into my boss’ office. One day, as I glanced over it, I was shocked to see a name I knew, from many years before. I had grown up in Virginia, and this was a name I hadn’t seen in a decade ~ a boy that had been a friend of my sister’s, and by extension, mine a little bit. He was an absolutely adorable, smiling, dimpled boy named Ryan, and what I was reading, what that he was dead.
He had actually died two years earlier, but his father was a writer for the Journal, and had written the article to make a point about the role of drugs in his son’s short life. Ryan had died after being hit by a car, but the reason he was in the road was because he’d had a minor accident in his own car, on a small street. For some reason, had run from the scene, onto a busy expressway, where he was hit and killed instantly.
As Ryan’s dad explained, “Tests showed no evidence of drugs. But he was speeding from the home of a drug dealer. We later learned that, earlier the same day, he had obtained elsewhere three “hits” of LSD, a hallucinogen that can cause panic and that often doesn’t show up in tests. One way or another, drugs took my only son.”
The article went on to detail Ryan’s struggle with drugs, a struggle that started only a short time after we knew Ryan. But the larger point was that because Ryan’s death was indirectly due to drugs, it was not considered a drug related death by those who keep such statistics for our nation. But Ryan’s dad knew that it was, in fact, drugs that took his son.
The article made its point to me, all those years ago. I was greatly saddened to learn of the death of that sweet little boy I’d known. But I also gave a great deal of thought to the idea of how things connect. The domino effect, if you will. And just the other day, I read something that said that 1 out of 5 deaths in America is due in some way to smoking. Now you know what they say about statistics: that they can say whatever you want them to, depending on how you skew them. But I think the point is still valid. A deaths caused by heart disease could be blamed on smoking. Same with diabetes or a variety of cancers. The death certificate might give a cause of death, but smoking is liable to be the cause of that cause.
Or take the recent death of former White House Press Secretary James Brady. His death is being ruled a homicide, due to his injuries from when he was shot in 1981.
The point is repercussions. Unknown, unintended, indirect consequences from our mistakes or bad choices. We have so much more to be repentant for, and so much more to be forgiven for, than we will ever know.