Koopmans: Hard to explain life, death and risks

Robert Koopmans Editor / Kamloops Daily News
December 15, 2012 01:00 AM

How do you explain to a 13-year-old girl why a 16-year-old girl she didn't know ended up dead in a cold ravine in a city like Kamloops?

Or why two popular teachers, driving home to a community that knew and loved them, die in a river?

I confronted those dilemmas last week as news of the deaths zipped across the local news sphere.

First, it was CJ Fowler then just a few days later there was the crash that killed Clearwater's Skye and Courtney Buck. In both instances, my daughter asked me what happened and why.

I was torn between telling her everything and telling her nothing, in the vain hope ignorance is bliss. I told her what I knew because in the end, I felt it better for her to know that as safe as our little town and world is, it sometimes isn't, at least for everyone.

Implicit in my daughter's questions was the fact she was struggling to figure out how to put such tragedies in perspective, as we all do when these things happen. We have to, of course, because life goes on.

I did my best to convince my daughter her world is safe but it was hard to do and I could only offer half-hearted assurances. The fact is, I don't know that it is. I'm only hoping.

Investigations will inevitably offer us some reason for these tragedies, for why they happened. Those answers, for what they will be worth, will allow us to do what we always do when people die, which amounts to a kind of self-delusional rationalization.

Deep down we make ourselves believe these sorts of things won't happen to us or the ones we love and by doing so, we are able to continue doing all the things we do on a daily basis. Like letting our teenage children go out into the world by themselves and driving snowy highways in December late at night.

I started that process of rationalization with my daughter, by telling her that her world was different from CJ's, that the Kamloops she knows is not the same as the one CJ saw.

What else could I say? Should I tell her her hometown isn't safe? It certainly wasn't for CJ. For her, Kamloops proved to be as violent and deadly a place as any on Earth. Should I have told my daughter we are all vulnerable, that death hovers over us all the time? No, because that, too, is a lie. The truth of our lives lies between the extremes. The vast majority of us will go through life without facing a killer or the terror of a deadly car crash. Kamloops is safe.

We will one day confront our own death, though we will probably have a sense of it as it rises up to meet us.

We'll grow old or our health will fade and in some moment we will know our time is coming close. We know the truth already. There is really nothing to say.

The better thing for me to tell my daughter, perhaps, is to be as cautious as she can while she lives as fully as she can. Don't be afraid to live because you are afraid to die but be careful. You only live once is a wonderful saying but it has a flip side - you only die once, too.

And I should probably also tell her sometimes senseless tragedies happen, for no apparent reason, which means we really need to enjoy every minute we have with the people we love.

Because you never know.


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