Another youngster was stabbed to death on Monday evening. Just sixteen years of age. The death toll continues to rise. I have never known a year like this with so many deaths amongst the young population of our country, much, but not all of it, fuelled by drugs.
It seems that violence has become a way of life for them. It saddens my heart. My thoughts are with the family of the latest victim and all those families who have been affected.
So many of our young people are "armed" these days. Some say they carry weapons because they are afraid. Gang culture is beginning to rule our streets. Many are gang members and it is the expected thing to arm yourself. It is becoming like "West Side Story" but on a much more violent scale and there is no singing and dancing involved here, believe me. Just the needless snuffing out of lives that could have held so much promise.
It reminds me so much of the first time I saw death. I was working in the legal profession in London as a secretary. I dealt with all sorts of cases, divorce being the most common, but part of my work involved typing up autopsy reports. Not a pleasant task. Having to read what injuries people sustained and the contents of their stomachs was certainly very unpleasant.
This particular day I was typing up the report of a young man, only twenty years of age, who had been stabbed. Attached with the report was a photograph. As I said, it was the first time I had been confronted with death. I was nineteen, only one year younger than the victim.
I found myself riveted by the image. Lying on a slab. Handsome with fine features. Dark curly hair. Long eyelashes. I stared and stared at this photograph. It was just as if he were asleep. Not a mark on him, no bruises, no scratches. Just a small wound in his side. No more than about an inch and a half or two inches across, gaping very slightly in the middle. That was it. That was what had killed him. I found it unbelievable. How could he be dead from something as little as that? Of course, the wound had penetrated his heart as I discovered whilst typing up the report.
That made me realise just how vulnerable we all are. Just how frail. That little wound had stopped a life. He was gone. His life was over before it had hardly begun. What would he have been, what would he have made of his life? He would probably have been a Grandfather by now enjoying a happy retirement. He never got that chance.
I have never forgotten that photograph. As I am typing this, I can still see it clearly, every detail, just the same as the day I first saw it ,oh so many years ago now. Every time I hear that another young person has lost his life to violence, that picture springs instantly into my mind.
I think that all schools should have a photograph of this kind and that children over the age of twelve should be shown it. To realise that this could happen to them if they choose to carry weapons. Those that live by the sword are often fated to die by the sword.
There is nothing macho about carrying a knife or a gun. It does not make you a big person. It does not make you better than the rest. It does not make you brave, it does not make you a hero.
I wish they could see that, truly understand it. Taken on their own, these individuals are probably quite decent kids, but once they get into the gang scene all that changes.
As for that young man, I do not remember his name but I remember him. I feel for those parents whose last proper view of their beloved son, is lying on a mortuary slab.