Wednesday, August 24, 2016

To An Athlete Dying Young

Everyday, teenagers are killed in car accidents. It always stings whether you know them or not. I've had a friend to have her only child to die from losing control of his automobile this past weekend. Two others in the car were unharmed. Another one may be paralyzed. On the other side of the county, another high schooler is in intensive care from an accident at about the same time.

I did not know the child well. But I do know he was a good boy. I am very fond of his mother and family. I have always loved children and especially teenagers.

What moves me the most about this is the big question of Why?

I can appreciate someone being agnostic. I was for most of my life. Even now that thought permeates me. One day when it came the hardest, I dreamed about my dad and woke up in the middle of the night. I feel like my dad visited me. I had one other dream where I was working outside. Trying to finish my work before stopping. My dad was telling me to stop and spend time with my mother and brother.

When my dad passed, my grandmother was in the process of a dying. There were snow flurries and snow was almost a definite for the next day. Georgia is not equipped to deal with snow, and everyone stays home. At the evening school I worked at we had the option to give the kids their final exam that day versus the next day when they were due. I gave my students the option with the opportunity to study.

Most were ready to take the test within ten minutes. I had one student who took her time. I had decided to raise her grade by five points for every extra five minutes she studied. During that time, it was like someone really happy came into my room and said, "So this is where you work." It was brief but I took note of the time.  My dad unexpectedly passed at about the time when I had the visit.

When my grandmother's mother passed, a bowl she had given my mother cracked in half at the moment she died. My mother was baking apples in the bowl like she had baked so many other batches of apples.

I have read where other people had a similar experience and it is called the "final goodbye". My grandmother passed away shortly after my dad's funeral.

What tore me up the most after my dad died was talk about people having heart attacks. I had a friend who found out she had had a mild heart attack during a physical before a cosmetic procedure. Sitting at dinner, it was difficult to listen to the story and not betray how I felt. The person who asked my dad and grandmother's age and said, "Well they were old." was more of a shock and what a story to repeat item in my mind.

I've led a fairly enchanted life in that I have never had that many people around me die. The only thing I know is to say I'm sorry, pray for the survivors and never avoid someone because I don't know what to say.

A young history teacher was surprised to know I was a Christian. He thought I was an atheist. That was a shock of information. Where I live, if you are an unbeliever, it is best to keep it to yourself. So this admission was disturbing. I never brought religion into the classroom. It is really the domain of parents and I always respected that. What I did share with him is that I don't think people have to have religion to be good. But religion does help you through the difficult parts of your life.

What I think about when someone so young with so much promise dies young is the bible verse and old saying that our deaths are an appointment with our maker. The other thought is the poem in high school called "To An Athlete Dying Young" by A. E. Housman. It was written in 1896. I remember studying it in high school and thought it was such a yawner at the time. Funny how that yawner has stayed with me.

Any way, you can grieve and rage but it does not change what has happened. The memorial will be Saturday. The shock of it being a child I knew has torn me up. I can't imagine how the family is doing. They are clearly in shock. They appear to be taking it well. God bless them. I know they have a painful journey ahead..

To An Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race,
We chaired you through the marketplace;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
As home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.


  1. I made a very small donation to the GoFundMe. I would hope I'm never in that situation; every parent's worse nightmare to have to bury their child.

    A day after my mom passed a hawk showed up on a fence in my yard. I believe God sent it to me. Two days after hubby's dad's died, a blue heron (a favorite bird of hubby's at the time) showed up at the field where our church met for their services at a local high school. I believe God sent it to us. Both could be considered the "final goodbye". Years ago before cell phones, a young friend of my sister's passed. Because long distance calls cost at the time, when traveling, to let others know we got there safely, we would call and let it ring twice and then hang up. The night he passed the phone rang twice and no one was there. Another final goodbye.

    I don't understand why God chooses to do what he does and why someone can live to an old age and someone is taken so young in their prime. That's his sovereignty. I continue to try to trust even when it doesn't make sense.


    1. I know Erica will appreciate your help. She has had some terrible health challenges and difficult things in life to deal with. It was a shock to hear her son's name in the news as the fatality. He was such a nice kid. But knowing how painful it was to his mom and grandparents was equally awful.
      I had heard people talk about the final goodbyes and thought it was just wishful thinking. Then it was my turn.
      We agree on so much. My mother explained my brother being developmentally delayed to me by saying God works in mysterious ways.

  2. Young lives lost is a tragedy. I remember when I taught and the first time a student took their life. Children collasped all along the halls when finding about the news.It was something we never discussed in college. As I picked up many and lead them into my classroom, I could not control how I felt seeing them in such confusion and hugged them all with tears in my eyes.

    1. I'm glad I never had to meet that challenge. That was just a sad situation.

  3. Awful. Any parents worst nightmare indeed. The only thing I remember when one dies I know, if I wasn't their friend before, don't be all boohoo and a friend now. I mean don't be mean, obviously, but people who hated them in life and then go and boohoo how they were the best person ever I want to slap upside the head lol

    1. You're an honest man Pat.

      Politically, I have know some awful grievers. One woman had undermined and made another woman's life heck at work. When that woman's husband died, she came to the wake and cried big crocodile tears.

  4. Your thoughtful expressions of grief are indeed moving, Ann. Please accept my condolences, for you and the family who must bear such unthinkable sadness. If there is a ray of sun at all it is that children leave such indelible marks, it matters not how long they were with us. The Irish have a saying that seems to fit just now: “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal” ~ Hugs to you

    1. The Irish certainly understood how to deal with life's challenges. You would think we would get numb to it by now. I think about the fatalities when I hear about anyone having a fender bender. We are all blessed to be here each day.

  5. What a terrible tragedy for that family.

    Sometimes people don't know what to say, but "They were old" is not the right answer.

    I'm not a prayer warrior or one to mention God often in conversation, so I just pray my actions let everyone know I am a Christian.

    1. Actions speak louder than words in my book too. I was a science teacher and there is that old science and unbeliever idea that I think caused him to think that.
      It happens too often with teenagers having car accidents and being killed. It is so sad when someone young dies.

  6. What a tragedy. I'm so very sorry for your friend, Hugs.

    Thanks for your support of my writing. You put a smile on my face:)

    1. You are a great writer Sandra. I was enjoyed your book.

  7. My beloved nephew was killed in a one car accident 18 years ago. He was a popular star athlete and a hero to my then-young children. I was also his teacher. Our family still mourns. Every family gathering is shadowed. I think the only way to survive such sorrow is to believe there is a God in heaven.

  8. It is such a tragedy when a family bids farewell to a younger member more so parent to a child. One has high hopes for them and they never get a chance to see through longer in life. It just isn't fair!



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