I sat behind Bobby in Basic Algebra class, room 17. We were both 15 years old. Each day of class, we’d manage a polite “Hey.” Then one day he wasn’t there. Two days passed. Word began to spread that he’d died in a car accident. Died? I’d never known anyone my age who’d died. I wasn’t sure what to think.
Everyone handles grief differently. A straight-to-the-heart article by the Huffpost takes an inside look at the lives of grieving teens when one of their own loses his battle with cystic fibrosis (CF).
When the news about Bobby got to me, I wasn’t certain what to say or feel or do, if anything. It just wasn’t anything I’d experienced before. Sure, I’d had an elderly second cousin die in her sleep, but that was different. She’d been quite ill, and her passing was expected. I was surrounded by family. I ended up playing cards with a bunch of first cousins in one of the funeral parlor rooms. Everyone seemed relieved with that arrangement.
After the announcement, the school brought in grief counselors. We talked about going to the services or not. A bunch of kids from our algebra class decided to go. It was awkward. It was not at all like going to a family gathering where everyone was hugging and talking quietly. We weren’t sure how to behave or what to say or who his family was.
There was a slide show playing. There were pictures of him playing football in his varsity uniform, goofing off for the camera with friends, cuddling with his dogs. The adults in the room were solemn and speaking in those hushed tones. We gathered in small groups and started reminiscing.
Occasionally, a bubble of laughter would break through. It felt good. Bobby would have liked that. We were his peers, his classmates, his teammates. We knew him in a different way than his family and cousins. We weren’t quieted by grief. We remembered him as we were, caught in a moment, forever young. He was someone taken too soon. That’s how I remember him.
To read more about the ways teen memorialize their own in their own way, click here.