There was a boy at school today wearing a Shenendehowa letterman jacket. A legitimate, old school jacket with well-worn leather sleeves which were a bit grungy at the wrists. Traditional and classic, it fit him well. When I asked how he had come to own such a vintage jacket, he quickly, and proudly, said it belonged to his father and hadn’t been out of the closet in a long time. A lifetime, perhaps. He was wearing it out of respect for the students who had lost their lives this past weekend in an accident that exemplified tragic in a way that exceeded any Greek drama ever taught in high school English class. Truly.
By the time one becomes a high school senior, it is safe to assume that death has entered the lives of most teens. Perhaps a grandparent, if the fates are kind and taking lives in chronological order, or maybe the loss of a family friend to an aggressive cancer or chronic illness. But, this? A situation where four close friends should be struck by an overly aggressive and potentially intoxicated driver, as they went on their way with apparent responsible care, was proof that life is fragile in a way that most young people have never had to consider, much less believe. Horrible.
I spent some time looking through a sideshow of photos of Deanna Rivers. She was undoubtably a beautiful girl, but what impressed me the most was the happiness on her face in nearly every picture. She was a girl who looked to be in love with life, a love that was reciprocated by the universe for far too short a length of time.
Teens don’t often understand how life can change in an instant, how lives which are an open book of possibility and potential can be taken in the blink of an eye. We need to all be cautious…be sober…be mindful. Jackets shouldn’t have a longer length of life than the student athletes who wear them with pride.