On a cold wintry day in November 1993, my daughter and I experienced one of the saddest days of our life together, a day that will be etched in our minds forever.
Just walking into the funeral home and seeing so many teenagers sent a chill throughout our bodies that matched the cold outside. There must have been at least 200 or more teens in the room. Usually when you see a large gathering of teens it would be for a pep rally or party, but not today. They were there to say their final good-bye to their very special friend, Kenny.
As my daughter, Michelle, and I got closer to the coffin, I noticed Kenny’s brother (who survived the accident) and two sisters to the right of his coffin. One could only look at their faces to see the horror and shock of disbelief that this event was really happening, that their brother Kenny was dead, and lying in a coffin. As I looked over to the left, sitting on the front row were his parents. I reached out to hug them; I was at a loss for words. What could I say that would take their pain away? There were no words that I could reach for, no magic thing that could be said to make everything seem okay. How do you bury your seventeen-year-old son? How do you let go, and how do you say good-bye to your precious child?
It was clear to me as I looked around the room of people sobbing, old and young, the question going through their minds; the same question that was going through mine. Why? Why did this happen to Kenny? He was only seventeen; he had his whole life ahead of him. Why? A few months later I was to ask myself the same question once again.
Several months later the question of why surfaced once again at my son, David’s, graduation ceremony. Something happened that brought the whole audience to their feet with resounding applause. The applause was for one of the seniors, Brian, who had been in a serious accident a year earlier that left him unable to walk. Brian was determined to walk once again, so he struggled the whole year just for this special night. When Brian’s name was announced to receive his diploma, he slowly got up and struggled for a few minutes just to get his balance on his crutches.
There was dead silence in the audience as he took his first step forward. We were all afraid that if we made one sound he would come crashing down to the floor. The whole audience was drawn in as they watched Brian move slowly forward, as if they were silently yelling, “Come on, Brian, you can make it!” As Brian reached the front of the room, he reached out and took his diploma. The silence was broken as the audience jumped to their feet with resounding applause. The applause for Brain went on for a few minutes, because we all felt that unity of sharing in the victory of a young man who had gone through so much the year before. For Brian to be able to get up for the first time since the accident, and walk to receive his diploma seemed to be a miracle.
Was this a miracle for Brian or short of what he could have had?
As I sat back down, my thoughts went back to Kenny whose funeral we had only attended a few months earlier. Kenny would never realize that dream of graduating. This was also to be the year that Kenny would have received his diploma. He would never experience that pleasure. The question came to mind once again of why, why did tragedy strike twice? Why did this have to happen to two young teenagers who had their whole life ahead of them? The answer is that laws were broken that changed their lives and the lives of their families forever.
We all tend to think that our lives are indestructible—that we will live forever. We especially think this way when we are young; however, as we get older, experience tells us differently with our frequent visits to the funeral home. Reality that we are only made of dust and will return to dust becomes very clear.
Young people love to take chances and believe they can’t get hurt. You have heard people say, “It only happens to other people, it won’t happen to me” or, “I won’t get caught, nobody is watching.” So what’s the big deal with traffic laws? Everybody breaks them. What’s the big deal with trespassing? I’m not hurting anyone, am I? No big deal—or is it? So what happened to Kenny and Brian?
Kenny grew up with my daughter, Michelle. They played together, started their school years together, and were best friends. Kenny, as a teenager, had a lot of friends. He had a job and a great relationship with his family. His hobby was rebuilding cars with his dad. One fateful night took that all away.
Our family moved away when Kenny was ten so we lost touch with him and his family until that night when terrible circumstances brought us together. One evening while I was watching the late news, it was announced that they were searching for a teenager who was in a car accident and thrown out of the car. One boy got out okay and they were looking for his brother. At first, it was thought that the young man got out as well and was perhaps stumbling around in the woods in a daze. When they announced his name, I was in shock. The next day all hopes of his being alive were dashed when they found him in the river, tangled up in some weeds, dead.
Kenny had just finished rebuilding a new car with his dad and decided to try it out with his brother. As Kenny rounded the curve at ninety miles an hour in a twenty-five-mile zone, he lost control of the car and went over an embankment. The impact from the accident threw Kenny into the river, were he tangled up in some weeds and soon drowned. His brother managed to crawl out of the car and survive. Kenny’s life was gone; his dreams dashed because of one broken law.
Brian’s story was different but with tragic results as well. Brian attended a completely different school. He was very popular, had many friends, and was very involved in sports. Brian loved basketball and played on the school team. His dream was to become a basketball star. Another one of his loves was skiing and he belonged to a ski club.
One day, instead of going to basketball practice, he decided to go with some friends to a nearby ski slope. While skiing, they came to a slope where a sign warned “Don’t Ski Here.” Instead of heeding the danger sign, they decided to ski there anyway. They pulled the sign up and Brian was the first to go down. He slid into a tree and was severely injured.
Brian broke his neck, and the doctors first thought that he would never walk again. Brian struggled with painful therapy for a whole year, not to ski or play basketball, but just to take that walk down the aisle to receive his diploma. That ski trip and the decision that Brian made that day changed his life forever.
Broken laws, broken dreams. Laws broken that we take for granted every day. Laws are there to protect us from such tragedies as Kenny and Brian. So what’s the big deal? Ask Brian what the big deal is. Ask Kenny’s parents what the big deal is, since they will never see Kenny fulfill his dreams. Kenny’s family is left behind to pick up the pieces.
Kenny will never be able to experience the joys that we all take for granted. Brian will live with the effects of that decision he made on the ski trip for the rest of his life. Brian and Kenny are only two examples of the many people who are suffering as a result of broken laws.
There are many laws that are put into place by men to protect us from harm, such as speed limits, not drinking while driving, and more. There are even greater laws that are commanded by God, for our good (Exodus 20). The Ten Commandments, if obeyed, will give us much happiness and peace of mind. God, our loving Father, pleads with us in Deuteronomy 5:29, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” Notice what it says, “…that it might be well with you and your children...” If we could only realize how frail we are, and see that man’s laws, as well as God’s laws, are there to protect us; not make life hard for us.
Proverbs 3:1-2 says, “My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you.” God tells us that we will have length of days and years with abundant life if we will keep His laws! Brian and Kenny chose to ignore a law. It is too late for them, but not too late for you.
Strive to take to heart the importance of keeping God’s Ten Commandments and showing respect for man’s laws. Understand that they are there for your good. “And now, Israel (place your name there), what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). Why keep His laws? For Your Own Good.
Let us all learn from the tragedies of Kenny and Brian—from the effects that come from broken laws—so your dreams will not be broken! Keep God’s laws for your good!
For more helpful information, request the free booklets: Making Life Work and The Ten Commandments