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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One Year Later

I wrote this last year for the Houma Courier's Guest Column page.  I thought it would be nice to honor these outstanding young people on the anniversary of their passing. 

Prayers for VCH

I have not been nearly as productive at work as I should, have been in an uncharacteristically quiet mood, and I have not slept well for the past five days.

I did not know them.  However, I have not been able to get Ian Haydel, Gabby Hebert, T.J. Cantrelle, and Megan Hitt off of my mind.  The taking of these four young, intelligent, and glowingly personable individuals is a tragedy in the truest sense of the word.  It is one that will shake the strongest man to his very soul, make the toughest man well up and cry.  As a former high school teacher and coach, one who truly enjoys working with young people and seeing them grow and mature, the tragic events of Sunday morning have really made me wonder.  Every time a young person leaves this earth too soon, it leaves you asking, “Why?”  In this case, that question is resonating through every person in South Louisiana.  “Why would God take them now?”

When something like this happens, obviously the first thing that comes to mind is unimaginable sadness.  Sorrow not only for the kids, but for the friends, family, and especially the parents.  The grief that these parents are going through can not ever be understood by someone who has not experienced a tragedy such as this.  They call a woman who loses a husband a widow, a husband who loses a wife a widower, and a child who loses a parent an orphan.  However, there is no word for a parent who loses a child, because that loss is too great for words.  I know there is nothing that anyone can do to ease the sting of your loss, but to those grieving parents, know that this entire community is here to support you.  Your children are an important part of this community, and they always will be.  They have touched many lives, and that is obvious to everyone, even a stranger such as me.  It must be nearly impossible to not ask, “Why would God take my baby from me?”

The second thing that I think of in such circumstances are the friends that I have lost much too soon.  I think about Keon, a high school teammate of mine who always had a smile on his face and kept us laughing during the hottest days of practice.  I think of Jonathan, a great friend who took care of me throughout high school like an older brother, who died in a car accident in 2003.  My beautiful friend and neighbor Nicole, who passed away much too young because of medical problems about 5 years ago.  When I think of these people, I tend to start off thinking about the sadness of losing them, before eventually moving on to thinking about the good times that we had together.  I think that is natural progression:  Sadness at first, but always ending in fondness and good memories.  Despite the wonderful memories, I still find myself asking, “Why would God take my friends away from me?”

Lastly, and most importantly, I become more appreciative of the things I have in life.  I challenge you to go play golf with your brother.  Have dinner with your sister.  Call an old friend who you haven’t talked to in way too long.  Hug your kids, your parents, your spouses.  They say that every cloud has a silver lining.  This is, without doubt, about as dark of a cloud as could be imagined.  It is hard to see anything good come of this tragedy.  However, I do not think that Ian, Megan, T.J., and Gabby would want everyone to stay sorrowful for long.  Cherish their memories.  Celebrate their lives.  Use their untimely passing as way to better yourself as a person, and in turn, better this community in which we live and the lives of others.  That is what they want us to do.  Respond to this adversity by becoming better people, people who can slow down and appreciate the things that we are so lucky to have in this life.  Even so, doubt creeps in and it is hard not to ask, “Why wouldn’t God allow these wonderful people to finish their life’s work?”

On September 3rd, T.J. Cantrelle, with safety Ian Haydel on the sidelines, and Megan Hitt and Gabby Hebert cheering the Terriers on, led his team to a thrilling comeback over rival E.D. White, directing two scoring drives in the final 30 seconds of the game.  It was about as improbable a victory, some would say borderline divine, as one could imagine.  This was especially true since the young quarterback was not supposed to play at all due to a badly sprained ankle. After the game, Cantrelle was asked about the improbable comeback as well as his balky ankle.

 “I will never doubt God again,” was his reply.

I guess if T.J. doesn’t doubt Him, I suppose we shouldn’t either.