When your child isn’t home by curfew many thoughts go through your mind, especially if they’ve never been late before. This was the case for us on April 24, 2010. Our son Michael was in Oak City, Utah with friends. When midnight rolled around and he wasn’t home and hadn’t called, we got nervous. I tried to call him but got only voicemail. At 12:15 a.m., I decided to go look for him. I was 8 miles outside of Delta when a police car passed me, lights flashing. I knew something was terribly wrong with my son. Call it intuition or whatever, but I knew. About a mile from town, I saw the police lights flashing. I slowed and recognized our car in a field. I saw my son lying beneath the car. I ran toward the crash site, but a policeman grabbed me and said, “Don’t go over there, he’s already gone, you don’t want to see him this way.”
The next hours are a blur. I called my wife and family members. I watched as the ambulance and tow truck came. I saw them lift the car and remove his body. I drove home, wondering how to tell our children their big brother was gone.
How did this happen? Why did this happen? We know this happens to other people, but not us. This must be a bad dream. But more than a year has passed and he’s still gone. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think of him and the things he’d be doing if he were here.
We replay the events of that day over and over in our minds. It was a normal school day. He was a sophomore at Delta High School, an Eagle Scout, got good grades, had lots of friends and was nice to everyone. He stood out in a crowd, literally, because he was 6’6” tall. His dream was to play college and professional basketball. His motto was: “Practice like a champion, play like a champion, live like a champion.”
The day of the crash, Michael had asked if he could spend the night with friends in Oak City, but we wanted him home. Why? We don’t know. So many unanswered questions. He left his friend’s house to be home by midnight. What happened? Our best guess is that he swerved to miss a deer, overcorrected, lost control and rolled. He always wore his seat belt but, for some reason, didn’t have it on this time. He was thrown from the car and the car came to rest on his midsection. They tell us he died quickly.
Even though our world stopped for a time, life has gone on. People from our community have been amazing. His friends, coaches and classmates have done many things to ease our burden. Each day is filled with memories. Michael would have been starting his senior year this fall. It’s hard to see his friends go to prom, play sports and carry on with their lives, but we find joy in their successes. We know we will see Michael again. We believe in the eternal nature of families.
If there is a message we could share, it would be always wear your seat belt, tell your loved ones every day how much you love them and live life with no regrets.