This week a tragedy happened. One of those “I can’t believe it happened here.” We lost three students from our small town. All three were Scouts, band students, and loving sons and brothers.
Will 17, Heath 16, and Thomas 11, will be missed. Our community embraced the families with love this week; sharing the grief the family of each boy is shouldering. I’ve watched, in awe, as the parents and siblings, stood receiving condolences and hugs from hundreds of people who have shown up to support them and pay their respects to their loved one.
These boys were on a scouting weekend. They were sailing on Lake ‘O Pines when their sailboat passed under a low hanging electrical line and it arced, electrocuting them. Will and Heath died instantly and Thomas was flown to a hospital, but never regained consciousness. His family made the beautiful decision to donate his organs. Because of this unselfish act, at least five people lives will be changed for the better.
During Heath’s visitation, I thanked Thomas’ dad for donating his organs. I told him how getting a transplant made a difference in my son’s life. Part of his son is now living on in someone else’s life. He talked about hoping to meet them one day.
Despite the age differences, these boys were tied together through their love of scouting. I didn’t know all of them. Heath, I taught in 4th grade. I struggled with sadness last night, remembering his sweet smile and knowing it won’t be seen on this side of heaven. I taught two of Thomas’ brothers, so seeing them struggle with the grief is heart wrenching. All of us have similar stories of how our lives connected.
All the boys had siblings. They’ll mourn the life activities and the small day-to-day moments that are lost to them with the passing of their brother. I can’t imagine the grief the parents will walk through. I do know their emotions will go through many stages and uncountable tears will be shed. I also know that time will temper their loss. The hurt will never go away, but they will heal with God’s strength.
If I could give advice, I’d tell their friends and family to continue to talk about and share stories of these individual boys. Not just when the hurt is fresh, but months and years from now.
Family and friends, don’t be afraid to say their name and laugh about the silly things they did. Talk about their accomplishments and the joy they brought to your life. Write the stories down and send it to the family. Some people think that talking about a lost loved one is painful. In fact, the opposite is true. Nothing makes a heart lighter than keeping a loved one alive with memories. It means that they made a difference, touched a heart, and are remembered.
Tragedies happen everyday somewhere. We never know when we talk with someone if it will be our last time to say I love you. Make life count and don’t hold onto small, petty things that in the long-term won’t make a difference. Hug your loved one.
This isn’t Hallsville’s first taste of grief of loss of young life and I’m sure it won’t be the last. However, at this time, we are remembering Will, Heath, and Thomas. We are lifting up their families in prayer. Our community is raising money for scholarships in their memory to help others kids go to college. We are mourning our loss.
When school starts in a few weeks, more tears will be shed. Students will walk the halls and remember their missing friends. A senior, a junior, and a sixth grader will be missed because they were loved.
If you have a child, when you send them off to school, please say a prayer for the three families of Will, Heath, and Thomas.