Nothing will bring Manny Castillo back, but through him, his parents have added a profound dimension to the meaning of “forgiveness.”
Tragically, the 15-year-old died recently after an altercation at a high school rugby match in Ontario.
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Nothing can bring him back. Such is the realization of his parents who decided not to charge the 16-year-old boy who police say caused his fatal head trauma. Police initially charged the teenager with aggravated assault, which can be upgraded to manslaughter since Castillo has died.
How many parents could have thought that way as their child lay dying? Could you? Could I?
But Manny’s family was adamant the charges be dropped. And they’ve donated the otherwise healthy boy’s organs. Their reasoning? “It was an injury,” Manny’s father said. “It wasn’t a fight. I don’t want to affect another kid and make a mess of his life.”
It was astonishing to me that these parents, who were so thrilled by their son’s physical abilities, could rise above their own loss and recognize that they didn’t want another family’s son lost to them.
According to the Castillos, the injury was caused by accident, the outcome most certainly unintended. They’ve lost their eldest son, far too early, and nothing can change that fact. But why should another young boy’s life be forever ruined for something he didn’t mean to do?
“We support the police investigation but we do not condone the fact that this kid is charged with assault or that he is in custody,” the boy’s uncle, Hector Castillo, said.
“... We truly believe it was a freak accident ... I know that (Manny) would not want anything to happen to this kid.”
But the reality is that this kid’s life is already forever changed. How can he ever forget what happened that fateful day? How can he ever return to the playing field without a care?
Manny’s friends have also been forever changed. Last week his team played rugby in his honour, raising funds for the Hospital for Sick Children. His closest buddies knew that Manny wouldn’t have wanted them to stop playing, and he would have wanted them to raise money to help other kids.
For now, the accused is out on bail in the custody of his parents, and disallowed from playing any high school sports. That probably doesn’t sound like a very harsh punishment. But to a 16-year-old high school rugby player, at the end of the season, that could be devastating.
Although the incident occurred outside of regular game play, in the final seconds of the match, it was still considered part of the overall excitement, frenzy, and normal testosterone-hyped aggression that comes naturally to boys in the throes of contact sports.
Maybe that’s not such a good thing to accept. Perhaps this incident will have an effect on how we teach our boys to play, and on the importance of protective equipment.
I commend the Castillos, for even in their darkest hour, they have taken the high road, seeing beyond their tragedy and believing in the greater goodness.