The most horrible sound in the world is that of the first shovelful of dirt hitting your friend’s coffin. The most painful act is shovelling dirt on the coffin yourself. There’s no way to escape the moment: the feel of the shovel, the smell and sound of the dirt, the realization that you’re helping bury someone close to you who used to be full of life and laughter.

And with every bit of dirt, the knowledge that she could still be full of life and laughter, had things been different. No one said how she died, but those of us closest to her can guess that it was probably due to one dose too many. She’s the second friend I’ve lost to overdose.

When I told mom about the ceremony, she looked thoughtful and said, “I think kids should have to do this when their friends die from a drug overdose or drunk driving.” My first reaction was to be horrified; then I realized how brilliant it is.

Young people tend to think they’re invincible. They hear about ODs and drunk driving and think, “that happens to someone else,” not realizing that we’re all someone else to someone else. But would they still think this way when they’re shovelling dirt onto a friend’s coffin? In the inescapable moment of burying someone who had one drink or dose too many? Would they finally understand how easily they could be under the dirt instead?

— Katy Hume