As my high school graduation approached, I looked around at my classmates during a school assembly. I then turned to my best friend and observed, “You know, some of these people will not die of old age.”
It wasn’t some mystic revelation or prophecy. I wasn’t privy to secret information, just an understanding that things happen. Even to young people. Even people I knew.
It didn’t take long for the “prophecy” to be fulfilled. There were tragic accidents, suicides, drug overdoses, illnesses and more through the years. Many precious lives were snuffed out too early.
Losing young friends and acquaintances will bring front and center the fragile nature of life, the reality of our own mortality. It’s frightening and it’s heartbreaking, but it most certainly is a part of our journey.
It is even more heartrending when you’re forced to watch your own child experience it, as was the case this morning when our daughter received word that a former classmate had passed. It’s a most helpless feeling for a dad to know he’s utterly powerless to shield her from, well, life. And death.
Her friend was a gifted dancer, sidelined by an illness that ultimately confined him to a wheelchair in his last months. Yet he somehow found the courage and strength to go across the stage and receive his high school diploma only weeks ago. He was cheered on by friends, teachers, and total strangers who were genuinely touched by his resolve.
I grieve for his family, whom I don’t know, and for my daughter, who ought not have to witness such pain so soon in life. Yet I know she and all of her friends will rejoice in the memories of their late friend and in the knowledge that his pain is finished.
Rest in peace, Marcus. You will be forever young, and forever in the hearts of those you touched.