This week has been one of the longest weeks of my life and that is because one of the young men, thirteen years old, that I work with, DIED !!!! When this happens, lots of questions surface; ” What is life all about? Why did this happen to him? How could he die at thirteen? How does this make sense?” On and on….. This truly is a heartbreak. This young man was a well adjusted, smart, kind, sweet young man who never got involved in the early teenage “drama”. He was respectful, caring, intelligent and happy. He was also an ONLY child. How devestating is that? How devesating is the whole thing.
When a young person dies, we all feel like something is wrong in the universe. It’s like life has been turned upside down. It is not the natural progression. A parent should never bury his or her child. Other children, their peers, try desperately to find an answer for why this could happen. In this case, there was a dirt bike accident. Sal, this lovely young man, loved going to the country and riding his dirt bike. He was a child who always used his helmet and followed the safety laws, however this time, it was extremely hot, and he went without his helmet. His peers want to think that it’s because he didn’t wear his helmet that he is dead. They want something to blame so they can understand the tragedy. The fact is that whether or not he had worn his helmet, he would not have survived this accident. His bike hit a rock that sent his bike into a tree. His neck was broken on impact. Helmet or otherwise, he would not have survived. Sal had made this trip hundreds of times before this final ride. He simply hit this rock in such a way that the rest lined up and on impact, his life was over. No one could have set this up. It seems so clearly that this was fate. So sad, so tragic. How do we understand?
I’ve been speaking with his classmates and teachers all week. Each person grieves according to his or her own style. One young man, one of his closest friends, couldn’t eat for several days. Another young girl, who considers herself his best friend, put on a stoic look, listened to what everyone had to say, held all feelings in and waited to go to the bathroom, alone, to sob uncontrollably. She prefers to pretend he is still alive. She doesn’t want any reminders of his death so she can pretend he will walk in the door any minute. Another young girl is upset that we can’t sign and paint the handball court where Sal would play every day and is desperately trying to find a way to leave a permanent, artistic display to remind all children, now and in the future, of Sal. She is desperate to not have him ever forgotten. Some cry. Some make jokes. Some just talk about their memories. Others remain quiet displaying their sadness in their facial expressions. How do we make sense of such a tragedy?
These tragedies force us to look at our beliefs. Who had this plan to take this beautiful, bright, wonderful young man? It was certainly no plan of anyone on earth. It has to be the plan of a power greater than all of us. In a moment of time, his life was ended. How does this make sense? How can God let this happen? Is there a God at all? Our minds go in the direction of doubt, anger, confusion, and pain. What is life all about?
I believe that we are put on this earth to learn life lessons. We are born, and eventually we all die. What we do in between those events is what counts. How we learn our lessons and how we apply those lessons determines how our life will go. Sal was sweet, kind, loving and happy. He always lived by the golden rule: do unto others as you want done unto you. He treated everyone with respect and caring. He never got into drama and was never unkind. He lived a life of loving. At thirteen, he knew that happiness came out of goodness and love. Many people live many years and don’t learn that the secret of a good and happy life. They don’t learn that the secret of life is all about love. Sal fulfilled his life’s purpose in thirteen years!
I truly believe that life is all about learning to love one another. I believe everything happens for reason, usually a reason to teach us a valuable life lesson. This young man lived a life of love. He judged no one. He was always happy. He was always caring and loving. He understood what life is all about and lived by love. At thirteen he knew what many don’t get until they are old and grey. He knew how to forgive others and love them no matter how difficult they could be. He loved and everyone loved him back. We all need to learn to love, to forgive those we think have wronged us, and open our hearts to love. That is what I think life is all about and in Sal’s short, thirteen years, he understood what life is all about and lived by it. It was an honor to have my life touched by Sal and I hope we can all learn by his example. Live a life of love. We miss you Sal.