Monday, September 23, 2013
Our Universal Fear-----Death
Tyreic Hemphill died in a car accident on Friday. He was sixteen.
My husband said that I didn't know him well enough to write a blog post about him. Most of the time, my husband is right.
But as I went on my daily walk today I couldn't avoid the push that I felt within my aching heart to write. Writing is my therapy, and after my walk, I knew I needed to put my anguished thoughts into written words. In fact, as I saw kids playing in the side streets and as I crossed Hope Valley Road, all I could think of was how frail we all are and how fleeting life is.
Whether we like it or not, death is present in every day of our lives. The fear of it can coil around us. Each time a loved one dies, we are reminded just how short life can be and how we have no control of when or where our last breath will take place.
True, I didn't know Tyreic. But there are things that I do know. I know what it is like to have that universal fear---death. I know what it is like to bury a child gone much too soon. Sixteen years ago my own son died at age four.
My youngest two, Ben and Liz, went to school today wearing red in honor of Tyreic. I thought of them and the other kids at Jordan High School having to go through the day without Tyreic. "How was the day?" I asked when my children came home. "It was depressing," Ben said. "Each class was quiet and solemn."
I ache for Tyreic's parents. I wish no parent ever had to be part of this parental bereavement club. It's one of the clubs no one wants to be initiated into. I remember meeting Tony, Tyreic's father, at Rogers Herr where my kids went to middle school. And I recall driving Ben to Tyreic's birthday party back when they were both in middle school. It was a paintball party and Ben had fun. Tyreic did, too. And Tony enjoyed being part of the party; he got covered in paint and laughed a lot.
I hate that Tyreic will never have another birthday. I hate that every fall from now on his family will have to recall the days before his last one. NC Highway 55 will no longer be a regular road, but one that will forever be a reminder of death. They will never be normal again, that has been stripped from them. All in one split second. Gone.
I hate that death has now separated them from their son.
I wonder how they will survive.
I wonder how any of us survive without our vivacious, funny, loving, and bright children.
Others might think they are exempt from death because they eat vegetables or wear seat belts or never stay out past midnight. We like to believe that we can sidestep death. "The death of a child happens to other people," we think.
We also like to believe that parents who lose a child can be comforted in knowing their child is not forever gone, but having passed through death to life, to a forever life in Heaven. While this belief can be solid and of solace to many, to the parent who has to live without his or her son or daughter, it doesn't replace the desire to hold a child. No parent should have to outlive a child. We parents expect to grow old with our child, continuing to share our lives with each other.
There is no way to make the death of a child right or good or happy. I don't understand why some try by quipping thoughtless platitudes. "He's in a better place." "God only takes the best." "You'll see him again in Heaven." I have heard them all.
What can we do as maneuver through the next weeks? We can reflect on Tyreic's life. We can be grateful that he was with us, that he lived and loved and taught us and was a son and brother and friend. We can let his parents know that he will be remembered always.
One day we will be able to focus on the fun memories of him. One day we might be able to laugh.
But right now, we just need time to grieve, to ponder, and to reach out especially to those who love him, those he has left behind. Death separates us from the ones we cherish, but the power of our love keeps us strong in spite of our frailty.
~ Alice J. Wisler