Chapter OneThere is no death like a child's death.This piece of wisdom occurred to me as I sat in a pew at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, listening to the presiding priest describe the dead seventeen-year-old stretched out in the gleaming white casket before him. My daughter, Jennifer, sniffled quietly beside me.Any death is a tragedy, of course. The person was, after all, someone's grandfather or aunt or husband or mother or whatever. But one thing we all have in common is that somewhere, sometime, we were all someone's child. The younger the deceased at the time of death, the more acute the pain of the loss.The reason that it's so painful, I suppose, is the wasted potential. The younger the person is, the more likely that he would have gone on to do great things in his life. Cure cancer. Fly in space. Be a good citizen and parent. But those who are snatched from us prematurely never get the chance. Whenever we hear of a death or read an obituary, the first thing we look for is the deceased's age. If someone dies at age ninety-four, we tend to smile ruefully and think that he had a good run. But the younger someone is the more likely that we'll shake our heads and mutter about what a shame it is. He was so young. She left three kids in school. He hadn't even graduated high school yet.The potential unfulfilled in this case belonged to seventeen-year-old Victor Madrigas, a classmate and friend of my daughter. What made this death even more painful were the circumstances: a suicide by overdose. Add in the mortal sin of self-murder to the devout family's shock and loss, just in case the situation wasn't tragic enough.My ex-wife Beckymy first ex-wifehad asked me to chaperone Jennifer and two of her friends to the funeral on that sunny Thursday morning. Becky and her new husband each had week-day commitments and couldn't chauffeur the girls, who were taking a day off from school. None of the girls had her license yet, despite all having reached or being on the cusp of reaching that all-important milestone of the sixteenth birthday. Good thing I was available. Of course, being unemployed, my only real daily commitment wasSportsCenter.I hadn't known young Victor, but the funeral truly depressed me. I thought that my former career as a detective had hardened me against death. You see death as often as I have, even the deaths of young people, you build up emotional calluses. I saw a lot of young kids lying on sidewalks or in crack-house closets, a pool of dark blood drying black beneath them. I delivered the bad news to a lot of parents. I thought I had become immune to any emotional connection with the victims or their families.But there I was, blinking my eyes and swallowing a hard lump in my throat. Maybe it was my distance from the job. Maybe it was seeing my daughter so upset. Maybe it was a "there but for the grace of God" type of empathy. But, more likely, it was the close, personal relationship I now had with the grim reaper. Over the past nine months, Death and I had become good buddies.The service ended and I loaded Jennifer and her friends into Becky's Lexus, loaned to me for the occasion with strict instructions "not to scratch anything." My battered pickup was left at home, its cab too small to comfortably accommodate us all. I flipped on the Lexus's headlights and pulled out into the long, slow procession that led to the cemetery. If we were going to have to inch along like this, at least we were inching in style.If anything, the graveside service was even more depressing. The sight of the coffin being slowly lowered into the dirt eliminated any abstraction. This was a real death. Victor was being buried. For many of Victor's friends, this was their first funeral and iCavanagh, Thomas B. is the author of 'Prodigal Son', published 2008 under ISBN 9780312377076 and ISBN 031237707X.