I’m at the point in life where walking up the steps at the funeral home is beginning to get routine.
Today, I’ll do it again. Shirt, tie, dress shoes, somber. I’ll greet someone I’ve known for 20 years and worked with for most of that time and express my sorrow at the loss of his son.
I remember when Joe was born. I remember him as a baby, and then as a toddler and as a young tyke. As he grew older, I remember watching him play baseball.
His dad isn’t much of a sports enthusiast but he supported his son fervently. Joe turned out to be quite a baseball player, so much so he signed a letter of intent with Georgia Southern University last year.
Instead, he’ll never pitch an inning, never field a grounder, never take a swing at the plate for the Eagles. I don’t know all the circumstances of what happened, but Joe’s life was essentially taken in an automobile accident, not too terribly far from where he grew up and where his parents have lived since they moved to Liberty County more than 20 years ago.
As a community, we’ve gone through our share of tragedy involving our young people and the roads. This isn’t a plea for those just reaching the age where they are able to drive and those who have been doing so for just a few years to be more cautious and more conscientious of their actions behind the wheel. Such an entreaty wouldn’t reach them anyway since fewer and fewer are newspaper readers.
I don’t envision as an attempt to inveigle parents to stress to their children how dangerous driving is and how much they need to consider safety while driving. Still, reminding teenagers and young drivers of the dangers of the road is never a bad thing. Maybe the kids get tired of hearing it. Maybe parents get tired of saying it. But that’s not the issue.
I’m not a parent. Yet there are few things worse in life than a parent having to bury a child. That’s what will happen this weekend with Pat and Jan as they and many others say their final goodbyes to Joe.
Joe will continue to provide life, along with memories. He had signed up to be an organ donor and as many as nine people, according to his dad, could be helped by his passing. The family is even considering donating his brain to science so researchers can delve into what happens in traumatic injuries to the brain.
I fervently hope there’s a greater good to come out of all this, besides the lives Joe will impact with his organs. Maybe someone else will decide to ease off the gas, wait to send a text message, keep their eyes on the road ahead. Maybe doing those things will give them a chance to keep living and driving.