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Good People Don't Die Young
The holiday season of December 28, 2006, approached its end as New Years Eve peaked around the corner. My family and I had, had our Christmas parties with friends and family and sat at home and read new books, played new Wii games, and tried on new clothes that we just received for Christmas three days ago. The sky darkened which told us it was time to put the presents up, and even though we didn’t want to, it was time to go to bed. My dad told us, “Get ready for bed,” as my sister and I reluctantly walked to our room.
We tested his mood and told him, “But, Dad, it’s only ten o’clock.” He smiled and just pushed us to our rooms, and he tucked us into bed. He and my stepmom followed us to bed, and the house was quiet for the night.
As I fell asleep, I dreamed of the presents I received for Christmas and the food I ate at our parties. I dreamed of being at my grandma’s, enjoying all the Christmas sugary treats we made for the party, and how good they tasted. As I drifted into a heavier sleep and hours passed, I woke to our home phone ringing from downstairs, but my dad, being hard of hearing, didn’t make it downstairs in time. The answering machine caught it, and what came across in that message is something I will never forget. To this day the message is still saved on the phone and engraved in my memory. My grandma was on the other end of the phone, and she told us that my cousin Bruce did not survive a car accident.
I remember at that moment, as my grandma explained what happened, how my heart became heavy as if rocks just poured into it. I stood there and thought, ‘This couldn’t be happening. They have to have the wrong guy. I had just seen him a couple days ago, and he was perfectly fine. He couldn’t be dead. There was no way.’ Memories of Bruce flashed through my mind like an old movie. I remembered Bruce babysitting my little sister and me every summer and how he always let us play Spyro on the PlayStation and took us on four-wheeler rides through the fields and around the small yard. ‘Good people don’t die young like this,’ I kept thinking.
I snapped back to reality when I heard the answering machine say, “…drunk driving.” At that heart-sinking moment, I went from being sad to extremely angry. ‘Someone had killed him. Someone was stupid, drank, and then went behind the wheel and killed Bruce. This was someone’s fault, and I hated him or her for it. I wanted the person to pay for this, and all I could feel was hate for this person.’ When the message ended, my dad called my grandma to find out what exactly happened and to talk to her. That was when we all found out what had really happened and the gruesome details of the accident. Bruce was the one who drank. He was the one who went behind the wheel, not someone else, and now he was dead.
According to my grandma, early in the morning around one or two o’clock on December 29, 2006, Bruce attended a belated Christmas party with three of his friends. All four of them drank alcohol, and they decided it was time to go. Bruce grabbed his car keys, and the four of them piled into his car and headed for home. Bruce and his friend were in the front seats, not wearing seatbelts. There were two girls in the back seat of the car who sat on opposite sides against the windows, and they, fortunately, wore their seatbelts. Bruce was driving fast, way over the speed limit, when he lost control of the car and went off the road, slamming into a big oak tree. Since Bruce and his friend in the front seat were not wearing seatbelts, they died on impact, busting through the windshield. The two girls in the back were badly injured and were fighting for their lives.
A man from a house down the road from the crash heard the noise and went outside to investigate. When he saw the car, he rushed inside to call the police who then rushed to the scene. The two girls in the back of the car were air lifted by life flight to a hospital. They were in intensive care for many weeks and then remained in the hospital for several months until they were released with a long road of recovery ahead of them. The officers who were at the accident that night later informed the girls how they survived through it all. The girls sat on opposite sides of the car and wore their seatbelts. When the car hit the tree, the tree went through half of the car, which would have smashed one of them if they were in the middle.
After hearing the story, I couldn’t believe it. ‘How could he do something so stupid and with his friends in the car, too? How could his friends let him do this, and why didn’t they stop him from getting his keys?’ I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I sat in my living room and cried. Everything happened so suddenly, and there was too much to take in.
At the viewing at the funeral home, the line to get in the building was wrapped all the way around the building. In a small town, I guess tragedies like this hit hard. People didn’t talk in line while they waited to come in. The viewing room was silent. I, only being seven years old, didn’t understand why I couldn’t see Bruce. His soft grey casket was closed, and I would never get to see his face again. As person after person passed me with tear-filled eyes, some hugged me and told me they were sorry for my loss. I just sat there quietly not knowing what to do.
It’s amazing what small town people come up with at even the saddest events in our lives. After Bruce’s funeral service, everyone in the church stood up and walked straight out except for the pall bears who stayed to carry Bruce’s casket outside. Outside the church doors, everyone lined up, and Bruce was carried out and loaded onto a flat bed semi truck trailer. The sky was grey with rain, rain that had not stopped since a few days before. I used to think it was Bruce telling us he was okay. The ground was too soft to bury him, so he was carried away on that semi trailer. We laid Bruce to rest a few days later when the ground had dried up a little.
I will always have so many good memories with Bruce that I will never forget, but I also have a story to tell. I know Bruce would want people to know his story. He would want them to know of his stupid mistake and to never drink and drive. Don’t make the same mistake he did. Don’t drink and drive. Bruce just graduated high school, and he was only nineteen and he had so much going for him. He was a varsity football and baseball player and a state wrestler. He loved FFA and working on his family’s farm. He was always there when someone needed help. He loved his family, and they loved him. He was a good person. Good people aren’t supposed to die young, but Bruce did.