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:
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.