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Passing the Guardrail This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I had so much happening that July weekend. I planned to spend time at our community camp for special needs people. I had a college interview scheduled. The grass desperately needed to be mowed. There were also my school sports physical, church picnic, and a night I was scheduled to work. Somewhere I had to find time to pack for my long-awaited trip to New Orleans with my church youth group.

Just as I had dragged out my suitcase, the phone rang. That call suddenly caused my needs to become totally insignificant. When I heard Jared’s voice, I thought nothing of it. But the next faint words he spoke came in a rush, and caused my knees to buckle onto the carpet. “A car accident,” Jared said. “Dave’s gone,” his voice dwindled to a whisper. “He’s gone.”

My vision blurred with overflowing tears, and I choked on my breath. Dave was Jared’s older brother. He was only 19. He had graduated with the Class of 1997. I had laughed with him the day before.

For once, I had no words to say to Jared. There were no words that could bring Davy back. That afternoon was only the beginning, and I remember it all. The memories have yet to fade …

… Driving to Jared’s grandparents’ house. Passing the shattered glass along the road. Tire marks. Seeing Jared’s pale tear-stained face. His brave attempt to smile. It pierced my heart to see him that way. His outpouring of thoughts as we walked in the rain: quoting his last conversation with Dave before he left, describing the horror and disbelief he felt when he saw Dave’s body, knowing that his big brother could not hear him say, “I love you.” This six-foot, 17-year-old boy leaning on little me for support. Warm teardrops falling heedlessly onto my head and face …

… The never-ending line of a rural community expressing its grief at the viewing. Half of the visitors – teenagers – facing the truth that they are not indestructible. Many did not know Dave at all, but were touched by his death. A father’s sob. A mother’s look of numbness. Dave’s senior picture on the coffin …

… The funeral. A beautiful day. A small church packed full. Parents easily imagining themselves in the place of Dave’s parents. Jared asking that I remain by his side. Crumbling to pieces as I, and others, shared memories. Dave’s senior class singing “You’ll Always be a Part of Me” that had been sung the night of their graduation. Hands reaching out to be held. A final good-bye.

I know full well that the sadness of this experience will never disappear from my heart and mind. The family and friends who are left behind are a constant reminder of the pain, the tears, and the harsh realization of life’s brevity that I encountered that summer weekend. Of course, life goes on.

… A family’s unsuccessful attempt at normalcy. Beginning to set my own goals upon graduation. Pictures of yesterday. Crying to a song about a life that ended too soon. Passing the bent guardrail. A silence too long to bear …

We’ve said good-bye … but we’ll always remember.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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