06 June 2009

GRADUATION DAY


IT MAY SOUND TIRED OR TRITE, but it is true nonetheless: when our children are young, we don’t fully grasp what it will be like when they finally walk across the stage and graduate from high school. Graduation Day is the event that compares most closely to a rite of passage — and while it pales in comparison to the indigenous experience, it’s truly all we have.

My eldest son sat with me last evening as he prepared for the big day, and we reminisced together: I, about goofy events from his childhood and he, oddly, about a story I’d shared from my own high school graduation many moons ago.

This art of “just being,” together in the same space is something we’ve done often. It’s been fifteen years since my divorce, but thankfully, we’ve spent many thousands of hours together relishing one another’s company.

As I’ve made my way through life as a single Dad, I’ve attempted to cherish each moment, amid crises and joy. Often I’ve struggled and failed, but try I do.

SEVEN YEARS AGO, the boy in the photo loved baseball more than anything. It was his life, it seemed. Today, it’s music and politics, computers and friends.

Next year — who knows? But one thing is for certain: I will never take any of it for granted.

Yesterday, I spoke with Mathy Milling Downing, who appeared in GENERATION RX. Her daughter Candace would have been graduating this week also — and it would have been her 18th birthday, had it not been for the tragic circumstances surrounding her death. Dosed with Zoloft, as the film tells, this beautiful child of 11 years old hanged herself in the Downing’s garage — a mere hour after sitting on her father’s lap watching Animal Planet on TV.

Mathy and Andy Downing — and their daughter Caroline are heroes of mine. They have fought through the pain and endured to become powerful advocates for “informed choice.” They have armed millions of others with the essential information they need about SSRIs like Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac. Caroline wants to become a journalist and filmmaker…and she is already in college pursuing those goals. Her parents are justifiably proud.

I told Mathy that as my son's graduation takes place this afternoon, I will be prayerful and full of gratitude. As she obviously knows better than I, we can never take these milestones lightly.

I love and adore my son — and I will surely be ‘misty’ today. I taught him to tie his shoes — and to tie a tie. I helped him to bat — and to combat narrow thinking.

This is his day.

But I will also be cognizant of my friend Mathy’s void — and recognize that she was unable to see both of her daughters walk across the stage.

As obvious as it seems, maybe we need to strip things down to the bare essentials — and give thanks for the basics on this day. After all, our blessed time with them as they’ve grown, the love we’ve shared, our rembrances of happy times in their childhood — are these not the building blocks of life?

Since life holds no guarantees for any of us — no matter how preciously we view it — shouldn’t we strip things down to the core?

Candace Downing lives on. Her life’s story — and her tragic death affect even the most hardened among us. In Generation RX, the story surrounding her suicide is simply stunning — and I’ve witnessed masses weep at the injustice of it all.

In the strangest of twists, Candace has already graduated — and is already teaching all of us.

Perhaps you too, have a son or daughter who will graduate this weekend — and pass the first major test of life.

As my son walks across the stage today, though, I’m sure I will shed a tear — out of my love and pride for him — and for Candace Downing — and others like her.

Peace to you this day.

Labels: , , , , ,

7 Comments:

Blogger ckb said...

Beautifully written piece. Congratulations on your son's graduation, and kudos on being present in his life as a parent and not a visitor.

What a sad story regarding Candace. We need to know about these incidents, though. So little is actually known about the action of many commonly prescribed psychoactive drugs. I quit being a guinea pig for the pharmaceutical companies several years ago. Yes, I still suffer from depression, but its effects are fairly predictable if not pleasant. Trying some combination of SSRI's and other chemicals just because they're being pushed isn't necessarily going to help, though, and it may hurt. We need to pay more attention to why so many of us are depressed to begin with and less to finding new chemicals that most effectively mask the broadest range of symptoms while killing the fewest people. All our stories are important, and no percentage of fatality is acceptable for an elective drug.

2:32 PM EDT  
Blogger Robert Scott Bell said...

Kevin,
I imagine my own son graduating (he's only 9) and thank you for contemplative perspectives that run deep for those who have and for those who have had and lost. I take solace in the fact that Candace is sending a message to all of us. There is purpose in great tragedy. I am grateful for your service in communicating that which I also believe to be so important for children and children yet to be. We shall not remain quiet while the youngest among us are needlessly drugged.
Your pal in health freedom,
Robert Scott Bell

2:43 PM EDT  
Blogger Scott Crawford said...

Kevin,

Thanks. From the heart. SC

9:42 PM EDT  
Blogger Ann said...

Congratulations to you and your son! Every moment you have together and nothing can ever be taken for granted. Embrace the joy and hold these memories in your heart!

10:45 PM EDT  
Blogger Kevin P. Miller said...

To Celia, Scott, Ann, and Robert:

THANK YOU all for sharing your thoughts with me on this very important day. I cherish your kindness and and take to heart your best wishes for my son as he begins another chapter of life.

I am certain that if we continue to educate the public and reveal the danger in prescribing these drugs so cavalierly...that more people will pause before putting children on these meds.

That act alone would prevent another tragedy like the one that affected the Downings.

peace to you all,

Kevin

12:07 AM EDT  
Anonymous Karri said...

Kevin,

Thank you for this heart wrenching piece. I read it with tear drenched eyes, sobbing all the way. My heart goes out to this family, and although we've not experienced the horror of SSRI's, we have children as well, two teens that will graduate next year.
Our prayers are with you as you release your son into this big, evil world.
Be blessed and keep taking on the establishment's sins.

Karri

P.S. I thought this video was worth a re-post:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOyEXpGH244

6:52 PM EDT  
Blogger perpetuawhimsica said...

sometimes you write the Most touching and beautiful bittersweet, but still hopeful and joyous things Mr. Kevin Miller. when writers do that- it makes me just love them. you do not have to post this- i will not be offended. just letting you know you move me. recently, one of my waxing clients informed me that her 11 year olds doc has put her on 'meds' for ADD/Adhd- I discussed this with her as a friend with words of caution for her- and I referred her to your site. I am pulling for her to go a nutritional therapy route- rather than onto a vicious cycle of dependency on these dangerous meds.

2:31 PM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home