The Coldest Day of Summer

Dear batchmates, kabayan and friends :

SUMMER with all its radiant heat and persistent calls to head to the beach, should be a time for frolic and cool escapes. It should be, especially for the youth, a time for metamorphosis and discovery. A time to recharge and reinvent yourself. Profound change, if we may, from which one never looks back.

It shouldn’t be a time for one to attend a funeral for one’s high school classmate, under the most tragic of circumstances, at that.

But it’s precisely what Bunso did, along with his friends and peers just 24 hours ago, for a fallen comrade in a death that defies explanation and understanding.

Facts are scanty, and we don’t want to make this sad affair any more painful than it already is for those concerned, but there are as always lessons to be learned in a tragedy, particularly one where so young a life is taken away from us.

We can’t make conclusions, but it appears that there was no other person involved in the incident; the deceased was apparently a healthy adolescent female who had no serious issues in her life, we say serious because, all of us having been adolescents, we know how impossible it is not to go though that phase of life without having issues.

(If it helps any, Bunso remembered that while quiet, the girl was a poet who had quite a flair for verse, rhyme and measure.)

At the time of the incident, according to Bunso the story was that there were quite a number of people in the house where it happened, and all was well, nothing of the sort was expected, until of course the fateful discovery of his classmate.

Her closest friends, curiously, are not saying anything about her mental state immediately before the day of the incident, and more details will probably emerge later. But a sad coincidence here is that, only a year ago, Bunso’s batch (they are incoming seniors this June) experienced a previous loss: similar story, although there had been domestic issues, surrounding the death of a batchmate.

One suicide is tragic enough, but two is wretchedly too much to be a coincidence.

** ** ** ** **

Our purpose here however is not to highlight the particular set of circumstances surrounding the above occurrence. Unusual and unexpected, but it could happen anywhere.

You and I both know that in schools that accommodate large student populations, attention and face time from teachers is spread unevenly and (quite frankly) thinly. There are bound to be, behind the jokers, jocks and performers, students who fall between the cracks, who unflatteringly are “failed by the system” and do not get the attention they badly need.

All too often, parents are inadvertently distracted by career, putting bread on the table and the rest of the brood, and the son or daughter who requires the most compassion and least neglect is in the weakest position to demand it. And before we know it, some damage has been done.

We know this, because most of us were products of medium to large schools. Most of us had teachers who, while they meant well, had their plates full just keeping up with the lesson plans, checking papers and figuring out how to keep the hormonally challenged classrooms from bursting at the seams.

Most of us (but not everybody) came from a sibling set of at least three or four, where everyone competed for everyone else’s attention, as well as food on the table, baon and control over which TV program to view. Angst and existential issues (why do I exist? is there a point to my life?) were the least of our worries, as our perennial preoccupation of zits, the crush who wasn’t aware of our existence, and memorizing the lyrics to our favorite tunes took up 90% of our time, when the folks didn’t remember to zing us for not hitting the books.

Rare was the ponderous, introspective and melancholy sort among us who preferred to keep to himself / herself, hardly cared about mundane and pedestrian issues and if ever there was, the rest of the group either left that person alone, or mocked him / her mercilessly. In any case, the outsider / loner faced hard and harder times.

** ** ** ** **

The point we’re trying to make, before we ramble on any further, is that for every sociable, boisterous and irrepressible group of youngsters that dot our community, there is one or two that deserves a different kind of attention from us, who implores that we sit down and talk to him / her in a more participative and emotionally receptive kind of way.

This is not the kind of young person who needs a PSP, iPod or extra baon from us, who prefers that we don’t ask about his / her Facebook or Twitter account, or that relies on the ubiquitous teen proverb about parents : The less seen of us, the better.

It’s sometimes awkward and time-intensive, but usually it’s all they ask : a sit-down with them to just talk, talk about what goes on in their world, issues within and beyond their control. Things that may seem trivial or inconsequential for us adults may mean the world to them, and we might not even realize it.

Appearance, peer acceptance, and attention from those who make their hearts go a flutter. These are probably the things we need to hear them talk about, otherwise we hardly gain their confidence.

We can’t even imagine what the parents of the girl who left us feel right now, and we don’t envy the task ahead for Bunso’s school authorities, but right now we’ll just settle for a happy, talkative 15-year old. Which is what Bunso happens to be.

Thanks for reading !


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