COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - "He just made a mistake."
Those five words have stuck with me for the past 12 hours after I returned from the visitation and funeral for 11-year-old Garrett Pope, Jr. Garrett's father, Garrett Sr., is a member of the Raycom family and is processing an unspeakable tragedy.
Garrett Jr. had just started 6th grade days before. He loved football. He had begun to play it. He had dreams of going to Clemson one day as well. But those dreams are just that after his body was discovered at home.
"We don't blame Garrett and we can't blame ourselves," Garrett Pope, Sr. said.
The coroner ruled his death as accidental, but Garrett Jr.'s parents know his death has an exact cause – The Choking Game.
"It's like a quick high without doing drugs," Pope said. "The game to an 11-year-old or 6-year-old or whatever, it's fun. Video game, football game, basketball game, 'Choking Game,' hey that sounds like fun, let me try it."
The Choking Game is a dangerously unsafe trend that has been circling schools for decades. It involves cutting off your airways just enough to achieve a sense of euphoria.
Euphoria was not what I saw at that funeral on Tuesday. What I saw were hundreds of grieving children – many of them almost too young enough to process and grieve the loss of one of their own – and their parents still dealing with the shock of Garrett Jr.'s tragic death.
I will not forget the images of children crying as their friend was eulogized decades too soon all because of a disgusting trend that just won't go away.
The children of yesteryear used to hear about this trend through hushed whispers in the loud, crowded halls of schools around the country. Today, children receive and process information at a speed that will make most parents head spin. Garrett apparently heard about The Choking Game at school…
The speed of information has changed, but one of the bedrocks of parenting has not – having an open communication and dialogue with our children so that they can be informed of the dangers of certain trends.
As we pause and reflect on this inconceivable death, we hope you'll take some time to talk to your children tonight. Hold them a little closer. Tell them you love them.
Just hope you'll never have to grieve them.
That's My Take, what's yours?