Thursday, May 3, 2007
Death often comes early
Sunday’s sermon was short but brought a strong message.
Life is fragile. There’s no guarantee of tomorrow.
Kerry Reid, principal at Byhalia Middle School and one of the ministers at our church, delivered it.
He had received a call over the weekend that one of his students, eighth grader Wesley Wheeler, had been killed in a four-wheeler accident.
It happened about a mile or so from the student’s home. A young man with a bright future ahead had tragically died.
All the children at the school are Kerry’s children. It was a tough sermon to deliver, but one we all needed.
We all plan for tomorrow, plan for the week, plan for the months and years ahead. It’s smart to plan, but what’s much more important is the way we’re living our lives today.
Monday morning, C.B. McClatchy, who teaches at the school, called the office about a classified advertisement he had slipped under the front door.
The conversation quickly turned to the sudden death of the student.
“It’s going to be a tough day,” said McClatchy.
Wesley had been in C.B.’s homeroom last year, and the teacher described him as “a good kid.”
And that’s just one recent incident that reminds us death can come quickly.
Sunday night, when the St. Louis Cardinals were supposed to be playing the Chicago Cubs on national television, I watched sports commentators focus on the death of 29-year-old pitcher Josh Hancock.
The key member of the Cardinal bullpen, who helped the team win a World Series last year, was killed in a car crash early Sunday morning in St. Louis.
His managers and teammates were fighting back the tears in interviews.
“This is brutal to go through,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said at a Sunday news conference.
Hancock’s parents, Dean and Betty, live in Tupelo. La Russa had to inform them of their son’s tragic death via telephone at about 4:30 a.m. Sunday.
Hancock, born in Cleveland, Miss., went to high school in Alabama and played college baseball at Auburn.
Hancock’s brother, Jon Jon, played baseball for Tupelo High School and Ole Miss. His sister, Katie, is a senior at Tupelo High where she starred on the basketball court. I saw her play against Holly Springs High School this past season.
The Cardinals were scheduled to play a road game Monday night at Milwaukee. They will attend the funeral Thursday in Tupelo.
They’re professionals. They’re World Series champs. But I’m not sure how they can go on – this week or this season.
Josh Hancock is the second active Cardinal pitcher to die in less than five years. Darryl Kile was found dead in a Chicago hotel room in June 2002. The 33-year-old Kile died of a coronary artery blockage.
The Cardinals will wear patches with Hancock’s No. 32 on their sleeves for the rest of the season.
“All of baseball today mourns the tragic and untimely death of St. Louis pitcher Josh Hancock,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. “He was a fine young pitcher who played an important role on last year’s World Series championship team.”
A teenager, a 29-year-old - one a student in Marshall County, the other a professional athlete - they’re seemingly worlds apart but their deaths leave us a similar, important message.
Tell your family members you love them. Hug them.
Get your priorities in order.
Death is certain, and sometimes much sooner than we think.
“For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” - James 4:14. (King James)