Death should be confined to the old, to those who can leave this earth with a sense of a life well-lived.  When that happens, those of us left behind are sad for the loss, but gratified for the completeness of life.

But when a young person dies unexpectedly, or is gravely injured, we’re overtaken by a sense of tragic injustice, of the unexplainable mystery of life that cannot be rationalized.

Two West Virginia communities have been heartbroken this week by separate tragedies:

In Monongalia County, Sydney Rush was killed in a car accident Monday night.  Rush, a 16-year-old junior at Clay-Battelle High School, was a well-liked honor student and talented athlete.

Sydney was secretary of her class, a member of the National Honor Society, Young Life and 4-H. She was a cheerleader and a state track champion.

“She was just a star in everything she did,” said Clay-Battelle High School booster Joe Statler.

This was going to be a big weekend for Sydney and her classmates—homecoming.  School officials have postponed the game until Monday and canceled homecoming activities.

Students and faculty are excused from class this morning to attend her funeral.

In Harrison County, South Harrison High School football player Dylan Jeffries remains in a medically-induced coma at WVU Hospital after collapsing during a football game last Friday night.  Jeffries, a senior, underwent emergency surgery for a blood clot on the brain.

“He was one of our senior leaders,” said coach Brad Jett.  “A lot of people looked up to him.”

A shaken community has come together for prayer services and fundraisers for the family.  The Facebook page “Dylan Jeffries Update” is filled with prayers and well-wishes for a full recovery for the young man.

Life has its tragedies that test our spirit and even our faith.  The devout find comfort and hope in God.  But we also know some turn away from faith at these times because they cannot comprehend a just God allowing such calamity.

Regardless, it’s difficult, even for those of us who don’t know Sydney or Dylan, to look at their youthful, smiling faces, hear others talk about them, and not be moved.

West Virginia is a collection of small communities, each with girls and boys like Sydney and Dylan who epitomize the promise and optimism of youth.  We root for them because we know their chance at all life has to offer is just ahead.

Sydney has lost her opportunity; we’re still hoping and praying for Dylan.  And we’re reminded that we should not be prideful about the gift of life, which can feel so permanent, but like a mist, can too easily waft away.

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  • Kenny Wright

    You are going through a terrible time and we certainly are in our prayers. When I was coaching at Ritchie County High School in 1993; we lost a player, Chuck Schofield. So, we are aware of just what you all are going through.
    The parents, family, players and entire community are in our thoughts and prayers. Have trust in God; he wil help you through this unfortunate tragedy. Please accept our prayers.

  • Lisa Anderson

    Is he any relation to a Jessica Jeffries? God bless him and his family!

  • mntnman

    Its what we mountain folk do. We support each other. We look out for our neighbors. We care about each other. It is one of the reasons I love our home so much. Community matters here -- all the time. In laughter and in tears...we mountaineers stick together.

    May the Lord bless and keep these families and give them peace.

  • James

    I Pray for these families ! I urge you to do the same.

  • 2XLPatriot

    My time in health care has taught me many things. Some, I wish I could forget while others, are daily reminders. Death is sometimes a gift to those suffering and believe it or not, it is welcomed. I have witnessed and tried in haste to prevent death from taking the youngest to the oldest. Fighting with everything I know and all the technology. Sometimes we win but all too often, death prevails. This is something that we must accept regardless of our beliefs. I was invincable when I was young. Loved driving fast, taking chances and injuries only slowed me down. We have to make mistakes to learn. Sadly though, some mistakes are costly. We can't blame God for untimely death. We were created and given free choice. Accidents have been a part of life since Adam and Eve. All we can do is live our lives as best as we know how. We can change with new lessons and hope we have made the right choices. A parent should never have to bury their child but, that is not our choice to make. I have seen more human tragedy in one week than most people will see in a lifetime. Sometimes, they come back as nightmares and each time I am reminded that death is a part of life. Prayers of peace, healing and love to these families.

  • David

    My thoughts are with the families and friends of these children.

  • zerotolerance

    Good commentary today. Thanks for reminding all of us that regardless of our differences there is a singular common bond in West Virginia made up of its small communities and neighborhoods. It's a bond I have found in few other places around the nation and world that are of the same magnitude as it is in West Virginia.

    God Bless the families and their communities/neighborhoods!

  • M Groves

    Prayers to both families! Only God knows our destinies on this earth and in eternal life. To the Rush family and those families who have lost children of any age and any circumstance, there is a support group, North Central Bereaved Parents, that meets monthly in Bridgeport for families needing help with the grieving process. Please contact Bridgeport United Methodist Church for more information. We are here to Help. God Bless

  • J. Qualls

    Prayers to both families. I myself just recently suffered the tragic loss of my 16-year-old son in a DUI accident back in July so I know the pain all too well of losing not only someone so young but your own child.

  • Fubar

    My prayers for the families and communities

  • wvman75

    My prayers and condolences to the families and the communities involved.

    • CaptainQ