When my husband and I moved to the little burb of Walkersville just over ten years ago, we didn’t know anyone. Well, except for his uncle and aunt, who showed up on the evening we moved in and asked for a tour of our new place. We really had nothing to show because the moving truck with all our stuff broke down halfway to our new home, but it was nice to know family would feel comfortable stopping by, uninvited at any inconvenient time they pleased.
Our social isolation didn’t last long, as we made friends with the parents of our boys’ classmates in daycare. But the real place we found our circle of friends was with the organized sports of baseball, football, and basketball. We typically saw the same kids and parents throughout the year as we cheered the kids to victory, and supported them in defeat.
And it’s been that way for the past 6 years. We’ve spent some of our evenings and many of our weekends with these folks. So our closest friends are not our neighbors, but the families we spend the majority of our
free kids’ sports time with.
Two years ago, our community was rocked by a tragic accident. Our next door neighbor’s teenage daughter was driving a car that was involved in an accident. One of the passengers was seriously injured. He was a teenager from our neighborhood. And the other passenger in the car — the driver’s very good friend — was killed in the accident. She lived 5 houses away from us.
We didn’t run in the same circles as the parents of these teenagers, but as a mom, it broke my heart to know what these parents were going through. The parents who did run in their circles and had been part of their kids’ lives were all going to be grieving. And while I was too, I was an outsider looking in. A safe distance from the major hurt.
Saturday, my sons had their first football playoff game, en route to a possible Super Bowl game. On the way home, I checked Facebook and saw a post in the local high school news feed about a player who graduated in June 2014 who had died Friday night/Saturday morning. My heart sank thinking the high school community would be suffering again.
Then this series of events took place, and I began to piece together how close yet another tragedy was:
- when we arrived home from the football game on Saturday, there were more cars than usual at our neighbor’s house. “Must be having a party tonight,” I thought to myself.
- cars kept showing up at our neighbor’s house all day on Sunday, and my son Alex said “they must be having a game watching party.”
- later Sunday afternoon, the high school principal sent a message to parents and students to let them know June 2014 graduate Jon Sandoval had died due to possible alcohol poisoning, combined with over-the-counter medicine. The message was circulated via Facebook as well. Jon’s mom had asked that all parents use this as a teaching moment with their own children.
- while watching Sunday Night Football at my friend Rebecca’s house, her son told me he heard that the kid who died lived in our neighborhood
- another mom texted me while we were watching Sunday Night Football and said she heard the kid lived on my street
On Monday afternoon there was a knock on our door. When I answered, the delivery man asked “Do you know the family across the street?” I slowly responded “the Sandovals?”. And confirming what I pretty much had already figured out, the deliver driver said “Yes.”
The family wasn’t home and he had a delivery, so he asked if I could make sure they got it. “Sure,” I quietly responded.
Later that night, as more cars came and went, I walked over to my neighbor’s house to deliver the basket. I stumbled and fumbled over my words, as I handed the basket to Jon’s younger sister Emily who had answered the door. I was barely able to choke out, “Uh…I’m your neighbor from across the street. This arrived today while you were out. Um…the delivery driver left it with me. So…I wanted to make sure you got it. And I just want you to know that my family is thinking of your family and we offer you our sympathy.”
Emily very graciously took the basket and thanked me.
I was no longer a safe distance from the hurt. Even though we didn’t really know the family, this hurt felt up close and personal.
We’ve already talked to our 12 and 11 year old sons about this, as honestly and openly as we could. I write this post to respect the wishes of a grieving mother. She asked us to share Jon’s story, with the hope that it could make the difference for just one kid.
So, while I’m doing this to help with lessoning the pain, I really wish I could lessen the pain for my whole community.