Beach Today

We went to the beach today.

We were there to celebrate the birthday of Ruby and Hart Campbell. A birthday they did not get to experience because their lives were taken by a drunk driver last year. I had only met Hart once when I drove a couple of teenage boys back from an indoor trampoline playground. It was dark and I can’t remember which one of the 4 boys in the car was Hart. I never had the pleasure of meeting his older sister, Ruby. I had never met their parents.

I first saw Gail and Colin at a funeral for their children. Held in a school gymnasium with 2 caskets and a 1000 people. I had already cried several times over these two children I didn’t know. I cried because Justin knew them and I kept seeing them through Justin’s eyes. Hart was a year ahead of Justin in school, but they were united in their love of theater and humor. I could tell that Justin looked up to Hart and Justin didn’t know how to handle the grief.

On the day we found out Hart died, Justin was sitting on his bed and I went in to see how he was doing. He looked at me and said he didn’t know. He wasn’t crying and wasn’t sad and was worried about what that meant. All I could tell him is that he wasn’t supposed to know how to feel. This isn’t something that he should have to go through and he wasn’t expected to know how to process it. I was 35 years older than him and I didn’t know how to process it. I had cried because I imagined the pain that Gail and Colin were going through and that it could have been Rochelle and I.

Not long after their death, Justin was looking through some photos and videos on his phone and found a video of Hart and him running an improv comedy routine. Hart looked much more than a year older than Justin and you could see Justin looking up to him. The amazing 8th grader that was his friend. Rochelle told Justin to email Gail and Colin the video as they were trying to gather all of the memories they could.

We were told later that the video came at a particularly painful time for them. They were crying and yelling and didn’t know how to process their grief. Then they received an email from Justin and they were able to watch their son again and laugh. It did not make things ok, but it did bring a little light into a dark time.

As we left the beach, we stopped to say goodbye to Gail and she told us the story of getting the video. She also said that Hart considered himself a bit of a mentor to Justin and considered him a cool kid. Thinking of it that way, the video of Justin and Hart joking along with each other takes on a different context. It explains the way Justin thinks of Hart as a friend and the cool eighth grader who took some of his precious time on earth to teach Justin.

I’m crying again.