The screams of that Saturday morning shortly after 11 a.m. will never be forgotten. The images of two brothers finding their older brother hanging, dead, will never leave their minds. At first we thought it was suicide, but later learned of a game kids are playing to get a high – the choking game. It was a nightmare, one that I don’t want anyone to experience, yet 500 to 1000 families per year face the same nightmare we have.
Matthew was a good kid, loved life, loved his siblings, loved God and his church, loved his job, and already had goals for his future, including learning to fly, maybe becoming a missionary pilot, and taking business classes. He was homeschooled and picked good friends. He loved playing games with his siblings, especially Monopoly. He usually won. But the last game he played, he lost. He lost his life – we lost and miss a dear son. Our children lost and miss a dear brother.
We will never know for sure where he learned it. We could not find evidence of it on our computer that is out in the open in our kitchen. Numerous people told us at his funeral visitation that it had just been on a TV crime show. We think he learned of it there, and thought he’d play it and lost.
We did not know there was such a thing as the "choking game" or autoerotic asphyxiation, which is choking with sexual gratification at the same time. Kids do this in various ways, but mainly cut off their oxygen to pass out, and then come to for some great feeling.
Several months after Matthew’s death, I was getting my hair cut and shared with the woman cutting my hair about Matthew. She had older teen sons, but had never heard of it. The greeter at this salon, a high school student, overheard us, and told me that kids are "playing" this choking game all the time at her school, in the hallways, on the bus, and at parties. She knew a lot of friends who had done this. If you have pre-teen or teenage children, chances are very high they are aware of this "game." Just as you should talk to your child about drugs and sex, this is just as important.
The death of a child changes parents forever. We are not supposed to bury our children. They are supposed to bury us. There is a missing person at our dinner table and at church the full pew our family takes up has a very missed child. There is a missing card for Mother’s Day and birthdays. There is a missing voice, hug, and a dearly loved person. His picture hangs on the wall, but it does not get older. He will stay 16 forever in our minds. It hurts to the core of your heart. It affects relationships, friendships, and marriages. Others think we get over grief quickly and will not dare mention his name. If we mention his name, the subject is quickly changed.
It will be two years in December since Matthew’s death, and though there is more laughter than tears, more joy than sadness, the dull pain is still there, and I’ve been told by other parents who have lost a child, it won’t go away. When I see kids his age, I want to shake them and tell them to never try this "game." I want to tell every parent so they seriously warn their child. If one of my children is in the bathroom too long, it makes me or even one of our other children bang on the door a little harder to make sure everything is O.K. None of my children like hearing screaming, and none of us like seeing or hearing an ambulance. This death changed us, but by God’s grace we are surviving, and we pray Matthew’s death will save others’ lives. Maybe your child’s life.
Choking Game Education: Deadly Games Children Play: Awareness, Family Help, Statistics, Victims