With the game between Fennville and Bridgman tied and under a minute to play, the stage was set for great drama. The Blackhawks of Fennville high were playing in front of their home crowd and in the midst of an undefeated season. With the ball in his hands and the team on his back, Wes Leonard was able to get to the hoop and put the Blackhawks up 57-55; leaving fewer than 30 seconds on the clock.
Hands were clapping, feet were pounding into the bleachers, mouths were in full voice, and no one was sitting while the Bridgman team attempted to tie the game. The team was unable to score and the clock expired with Fennville winning the overtime nail biter. The fans enthusiasm overflowed onto the court as players, parents, and classmates celebrated the perfect end to their perfect season.
Then he died.
A junior in high school. The starting quarterback. The M.V.P of the basketball team. Everybody’s All-American lay on the floor as paramedics administered CPR. The finality of the games closing buzzer eclipsed by the finality of death. A seemingly immortal high-school star tragically felled on the court where he became a hero. Hundreds or thousands of Fennville citizens startled by the suddenness of Wes’ final game, final shot, final breath.
There is little comfort in this moment. Very few answers. What do you say to a mother who just lost her son? How do you ease the pain of a teenager who just lost their friend? Is it possible to remove the burden of loss from a sister or brother? Not at the moment, no. There is a time for everything and now is the time for the sharing of grief. Family and friends will find comfort in sharing pain. Like a puddle of tears, loved ones will come together and remember Wes.
I didn’t know him. You probably didn’t either. But does that really matter? Unique of all God’s creation, we have the capacity for sympathy and empathy. We don’t have to take the blow in order to feel the pain. If we were to let our selves walk down that path, we could imagine losing that person who we could never live without. God forbid.
I didn’t know where this would end up when I began to write, but I believed that I should attempt to put thoughts on your screen. As we mourn with Wes’ family, let us remember those close to us.