Too many times as a Trooper, I found myself strangely cold on an early summer evening as I entered the back door of a funeral home, striding purposefully toward the door to the preparation room to conduct the business of identifying a young, fresh graduate of the local high school……ever mindful the killing season was underway.
Fellow Trooper Mike Mulholland and I could recite from memory the prom dates and graduation dates for every high school in our zone. We concentrated our enforcement efforts in and around these rural Missouri towns as the annual ritual of graduation unfolded. We knew, all to well, tragedy was lurking on the roads and highways around these towns and more often than not, our evenings would be spent, in part, dealing with the dark side of the celebration that accompanies this remarkable right of passage. My professional career was centered around seeing to it that folks left this world in a way that did not involve mechanized death.
Many emotions are put into play for me as my grand-daughter, Kaelin graduates this week. I am very proud of her efforts, a good student who has earned every grade on her transcript. She is level headed, not at all risk prone and and she is apprehensive about the future. Her maturity is comforting, however; I still worry. The realization that my first grandchild is graduating is a reminder that time waits for no man and I am blessed to be standing at this point in my life. Older I may be, but I have not forgotten the jubilation, make that exhilaration, that accompanies the night you don the cap and gown. There is a sense of accomplishment, freedom, and the adrenalin fueled high that most folks naturally allow to override their sense of caution……..a feeling of invincibility. Experience and the cold grip of reality that is firmly riding my shoulder serves as a reminder that graduation week will be remembered differently for those that were visited by a Trooper standing on the front porch, feeling a chill, as he asks calmly if you are the parents of the young person he just left at the local funeral home. Believe me when I tell you that for the parents who have endured this special kind of hell on earth, the mere sight of the funeral home they have driven by for years will be crushing for years to come.
The killing season is open. I would ask that you talk with your senior and implore them to enjoy their accomplishment and celebrate within reason and certainly the law. Remind them there are numerous stakeholders in their accomplishment, folks who have, one way or another, invested in their success. Automobiles have a way of enhancing the new freedoms……but can literally crush the hopes of everyone you know. Their caution during the killing season will go a long way toward avoiding the back door of a funeral home for both them and the Troopers who go about the grim task of certifying the circumstances surrounding their death in a motor vehicle accident. The reaper sharpens his scythe this time of the year……I can guarantee it.