Dear Fred,

Let me just share with you a few thoughts that I had driving to and from your son's funeral yesterday.

When I was in rabbinical school I decided that I never wanted to teach children or teenagers. They are so fragile, and the way we affect them can change the course of their lives for the good or for the not so good. I decided that it is too big a responsibility.

Instead I ended up helping people that struggle with substance abuse and other related issues. And I’m thinking about the trade off… Here my actions, my words, the spoken and unspoken, don’t only change the course of a life, but sometimes life itself.

There is nothing that you and your family didn’t do for your son. I am not sure that anyone besides your son had the power to change the course of his life. Still, the thought always eats at me: maybe there was a word I could have added or a gesture I could have made. Unfortunately, I’ve attended the funerals of many struggling addicts in the past years, some I knew more, some less. I don’t know which deaths pain me more, the ones that I was so close to, or the ones that I just knew about.

Our religion believes in experiencing pain, as opposed to ignoring it. We believe we have a right to complain to G‑d, but we also know the value of faith and the consolation that comes only through action. My faith is that G‑d’s will for me, for you and for your son was accomplished. G‑d’s will pains me profoundly, but the only permanent result of that pain will be my commitment to do more for my fellow Jews — struggling addicts that I get to know, and the ones I will seek out.

I was proud to hear yesterday that the issue of your son’s substance abuse was not shoved under the rug, but clearly communicated to the Jewish community. This will go a long way in breaking the silence of other suffering addicts. You will hear soon from other parents, and hopefully you will be able to turn your pain into action and help them with your experience and hope.

May G‑d console you and your family among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.