Today I was reminded of a young man named Eric, who at the age of 17, was tragically killed in a car accident. I was scrolling through facebook statuses, and there was the post from his sister, Leah. This is what it read:
“Every year on this day, I try to come up with the perfect words to encompass the bittersweet emotions of life and death, and the meaning of the journey that lies in between. This is all I can come up with. 13 years ago the lives of almost everyone I know changed. Eric, I will love you always, no matter the distance. Love, your baby sister”
I had an immediate lump in my throat. Our families knew each other well. Eric and his siblings had babysat my sons, and had even taught them how to swim. We had gotten Eric a lifeguard job at our pool that summer, so the kids got to hang out with him every day. (They thought he was the coolest cat ever!) ALL of the kids thought Eric was the bomb – Even the parents! Back then, our entire neighborhood knew each other. There were so many kids the same age, and we all hung out at the pool together each evening – Moms, Dads, kids. That may have been the best summer ever……..
But one evening I got a call from Eric’s mom to meet her at the hospital. Eric had been hit head-on after leaving the pool. The next few days family and friends camped out in the ICU hoping that Eric would recover, but when it became evident that he would not, his parents made the courageous and selfless sacrifice of donating his organs.
And a whole lot of hearts shattered that morning……
Young teenagers experienced their very first loss of a friend. My children lost a role model and friend. My heart was breaking for my friend.
My sons both had broken hearts, and I had to get them through it while mine too, was aching. And my friend and her family had just lost Eric – their son and brother…
An entire neighborhood lost a young man they had quickly grown to love. No one knew what to do next. We all felt paralyzed. Our pool did not re-open that summer for several weeks. No one even wanted to BE at the pool…. But our community pulled together and supported and loved one another like it had never done before, and has never done since.
Christopher and Leah lost their brother. Cheryl and Dennis lost their son. No one, NO ONE, can even begin to imagine their pain – without a doubt just as fresh and raw and heart-piercing today as it was just 13 years ago.
I texted both of my sons after I read Leah’s post this morning. “It’s been 13 years today since Eric died.” My son Rory texted me back, “Feels like just yesterday.” There is still a crack in our hearts.
I haven’t stopped thinking about Eric’s family all day…..
I keep thinking – What ARE the perfect words to encompass the bittersweet emotions of life and death, and the meaning of the journey that lies in between them? – As Leah so wisely asked?
To Leah and her family, I want to say, thank you for sharing Eric with us. In one short summer, Eric came to be known as the most beloved “character” to have ever worked at our pool. He pulled our community together in both his life AND his death. He loved every child that came to play and swim in the pool, and he made every parent confident that their children were in his safe and loving care – to include mine! He made EVERYONE feel special, gave EVERYONE a great big hug, and that infectious smile of his endeared him to every soul who walked anywhere near the pool area. He felt like a part of all our families. We have never been the same since he left us, and neither has the community.
But, the meaning of the journey?? That makes me wonder what Eric would tell us, if he could……….
I believe, he would tell us to get rid of all bitterness. Give a whole lotta hugs. Forgive everyone – EVERYONE! Make everyone feel special, no matter who they are. Don’t be in such a hurry that you skip out on kissing your children goodbye when they go out the door. Tell your Mom & Dad that you love them – OFTEN – even if you are mad at them! That brother, sister, cousin, friend you haven’t talked to in years? Get over it….. That person you hold a grudge against? Drop it. For God’s sake – Seriously, drop it. Don’t wait until the person is gone before you realize having them around to love was far more important to you than the pride of being right!
Seriously, Life’s too doggone short….
And THAT is what I think Eric would tell us is the meaning of the journey that lies somewhere between life and death.
Me & my kids – We miss you, Eric……