My daughter and her friends went to a funeral this week.
Fourteen year old boys and girls. They should have been in school. Instead, they were in tears.
They lost a friend. A beautiful, smart, popular, bubbly girl. And they don’t understand why.
Fourteen year olds shouldn’t be going through this. They should be making up dances, and talking about boys, and pulling faces when their teacher’s back is turned.
They found out late last week. As is the way of the world, the message went out on Facebook. It spread quickly, even though most were still in class.
Some thought it was a hoax. It had to be. Their friend had everything to live for.
She’d been to our house a few times. One of the gang who took delight in keeping me awake during girly sleepovers.
By nightfall, the dreadful news was confirmed. Their social media world went into a frenzy. All asking the same question. Why?
They began posting tributes. With love hearts and kisses, as young girls do. Touching messages, of how much they loved her. Written out of hope, that she was somehow still reading them.
Together, they organised their own memorial service the following night, at one of their favourite places. More than one hundred of them. A place they’d gathered so often. Now a location to share grief.
They lit candles, and sent little hand-made boats across the water. They hugged, and cried. Some were distraught. A bunch of kids, trying to make sense of something the rest of us don’t understand.
This beautiful girl’s parents were there too. With their hearts breaking. I don’t know them, but my heart is breaking for them. Still. I can’t begin to imagine their pain. Their sense of loss.
They wished their beloved daughter could have seen the outpouring of emotion that unfolded that night. So many people who cared for her. So many decent teenagers, who wanted the chance to help. Now, it was too late.
I picked my daughter up when it finished. She was with a friend. They walked to the car, slowly. In the distance, I could see the parents, saying goodbye to the last of the kids. It looked like they didn’t want to leave that spot. Maybe they wanted to hold onto that outpouring of love just a little longer.
In the car, I asked the girls how it went. Good, they said. If only their friend had been able to see how much they all loved her. If only.
At home, our family talked long into the night. About the importance of looking after each other. Of sharing problems. Outing the bullies. Becoming a voice against wrong. And the fact that nothing is so big that it can’t be dealt with together.
I want this to stop. I don’t want another child to think that there’s no way out. I don’t want another loving mother and father to go through that unimaginable torture.
We need to start talking about it. We need to have conversations with our kids. It can’t be a secret any longer.
Every other day, in cities and towns all over the land, another youngster is taking this terrible option. Too many are now looking down, realising there was, in fact, another way.
Governments and schools have roles, and they must play a part. Getting even tougher with online thugs. Making sure there’s a place for everyone, no matter what their make up might be. And listening.
No-one has more power than us. Mums and Dads. Grandparents. We need to take this thing on.
Write down your own thoughts on it. Send them somewhere. Share this post with someone you think might benefit from it. Ring a radio station. Bring it up at the dinner table. With iPhones off for just a few minutes.
We can send cameras to take photos on Mars. Surely, together, we can provide a society that our children don’t feel the need to escape from.
I don’t have the answer. But I want to help find it. And soon. I’m sure you do too.
No more funerals for 14-year-olds. Give your son or daughter an extra hug today. Think about that special girl. And get chatting. Play a part. The only thing more precious than life, is a young life.
Follow David on Twitter @Salmo22