Brian Ingebrigtsen was buried in the tie-dyed T-shirt he'd admired just days before his death. A poster of White
Snake, a heavy-metal rock group, was tucked in the hood of his casket.The Sandy youth, whose tousled blond hair tipped his shirt collar, liked their music. But he'd never been to a concert, never had a driver's license, never gone to high school . . . never grown up.
There wasn't time.
Brian was only 15 years old when he accidentally overdosed last month on methodone and alcohol.
By dying, Brian became just another statistic - further evidence of a society gone awry. Some parents, perhaps naive, chalked it up to another tragedy that happened to someone else's child.
But in Utah it keeps happening.
Four young people died in Cedar City after experimenting with controlled substances. The cause of death: accidental asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide - "laughing gas" - intoxication.
Add four more lives to the stark statistics that are affecting more households, breaking more hearts.
"The trend isn't if a kid is going to experiment, but when," said James K. Smith, clinical director of the Day-spring Program at Wasatch Canyons Hospital. "It's a rarity to meet a kid who by age 15 hasn't tried drugs or alcohol. By the 12th grade, 90 percent of all Utah students have tried alcohol or drugs, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse study. Half of Utah high school students would admit to having gotten drunk, high or stoned within the past month; a fourth of all junior high students would say the same.
"It's a scary thing. It has become part of growing up," Smith said. "It's definitely a drug culture, which is no secret to anyone."
But Sandy Police Detective Warren Jeffery, who investigated Brian's death, believes many parents are blind to the potential perils their children face.
"I think we are experiencing just the tip of an iceberg," said Jeffery, noting that 50 percent of Sandy's population is under age 19.
Yet funds for drug prevention programs are dwindling - and with possible passage in November of tax limitation and rollback initiatives - Jeffery predicts further tightening of the belt.
"Unfortunately our society is reactive instead of pro-active," he said. "We can have all the great intentions in the world, but if we don't have the support from the community, government, schools and parents, the problem will escalate."
One parent eager to join Jeffery's crusade is Pat Card - Brian Ingebrigtsen's mother.
Card wants to alert other parents and children to the dangers of drugs and alcohol experimentation - the murderers that stole her "baby," her friend.
"He used to go to the grocery store with me - maybe because he wanted to throw all those extra things in the basket," Card said softly, as she mulled through a stack of her son's school pictures. Some are dusty, others slightly torn - in need of repair. Balancing a job and family, she never seemed to have enough time to put them in frames or scrapbooks.
There was time for Brian. And mom and son shared many good times - even at the grocery store. There they had a routine. They'd get their ice cream cones first, and then before leaving, select a video for their evening viewing.
Randy Card, Brian's stepfather, works in Emery County during the week, so Pat became mom and dad to their four children. Sensing that Brian, more than her other kids, needed her direction, "I stuck to him like glue."
"He acted like he wanted to live his whole life in just a few days. He just wanted to do what he wanted to do," said Pat Card.
He had a lot of hobbies, like collecting baseball and football cards. He had thousands of them. He was also active in Scouting and liked to fish; he went swimming, skating, listened to tapes and records - things that typical 15-year-olds do.
"But Brian also had a lot of time on his hands, and he was like a gypsy," Card said. "He liked to wander around a lot and meet new people. There were people at the funeral I'd never met.
"The last year of his life he changed a lot; his friends became very important to him," she reflected. "He changed friends probably as much as most people change underwear."
The Cards say it probably was their son's need for acceptance that prompted many of his "unacceptable" actions - actions that made his a familiar face in the principal's office and in juvenile court.
At age 7, the inquisitive youth was put on Ritalin for what doctors termed "hyperactivity." Last year he distributed the pills to his school friends. On another occasion, "just for fun," Brian and a classmate stole the keys to the school. The institution had to be re-keyed, and Brian worked off a $250 fine.
It was when he stole from his parents - hocking Pat's rings and Randy's rifle - that the Cards knew they needed professional help.
They discovered Brian was smoking marijuana, "and we didn't want him to go on to bigger things," Randy Card said. Their son had also admitted to sniffing gasoline and a cleaning agent. When inhaled, both produce a "high."
There were also his disappearing acts - once to Price for a week. Another time his dad pulled him off a bus destined for Los Angeles.
"We had our moments, but we could always sit down and talk with him. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't," Randy Card said. "But we couldn't chain him to the bed. He was too big to spank, so we just told him how much we loved him and how much his actions hurt us."
It was out of love - tough love - that the Cards had the police pick up Brian at their house and admit him into Dayspring.
Against physicians' orders, the parents took him home 21/2 weeks later. Insurance coverage made only a minor dent into their more than $10,000 bill. Other parents who hospitalized their children complained to the Cards of bills of $150,000 to $200,000.
"Because of the costs, parents have difficulty getting their children treated," Smith admitted. Since the recent proliferation of psychiatric hospitals, insurance companies have "tightened up" and are dictating what services are allowable.
"There is so much new red tape associated with insurance companies that it is limiting people's options," he explained. "It's hard to justify to the insurance companies hospitalizing kids who have drug abuse alone."
Brian, his parents said, did really well when he came home; he was so happy to be there.
Nevertheless, Card rid her home of drugs (including bottles of aspirin) and quit her job to be by her son's side.
Not until last month did she leave him alone.
To celebrate Randy's birthday, the couple went to dinner. Brian, instructed to stay home, left with friends - also to celebrate.
It was his last party. The following morning he was found dead on the lawn of his home, overdosed on beer and methodone tablets obtained from a friend. The prescription had been used by the other youth's mother to kill the pain of cancer.
"I think it was a lack of judgment," said a distraught Mrs. Card who, hours before his death, had given her sons and their friend sleeping bags to bed down on the lawn. "He had been drinking and wanted a high."
Brian hadn't wanted it to be his final "high."
"I have made a lot of mistakes, but I've always tried to learn from them and do better next time," he wrote in an autobiography - a school assignment. "I am only 15 years old so I have my whole life ahead of me. I hope to do a lot of fun things and good things. I want to grow up and get a good job and get married and raise a good family.
"I just want to say one (more) thing," he wrote in the six-page paper. "I have been getting in a lot of trouble lately, but when I get it all taken care of, I am going to straighten up and do all my work and get A's in school. I might not get A's every time, but I am going to keep trying."
Brian got a "D" on his autobiography, and his mistake last month was his last.