Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Almost A Year

I have to admit I’ve been dragging my feet writing this. 

It hasn’t been for lack of interest.  It wasn’t necessarily because of a lack of time, though the end of a school year is always busy and hectic. I think mostly it was a matter of finding the right words and the right combination of words to use to adequately express what I feel I need to say.

You see, as I write this, four days from now on July 12, it will be one year since my son was shot and killed.  As I sit and write this, in four days, it will be one year since we received that phone call, and in four days, it will be one year since my life, and the lives of my wife, Kim, and my daughters, Hannah and Emily, and my daughter-in-law, Maria, were so drastically changed. 

Almost A Year.

I think back on everything that had occurred since that phone call and it still seems like it was yesterday, and yet, parts of it feel like it never happened at all.  There are parts of last summer that I can’t even recall.  There are parts of this past year that I can’t even recall.  It’s like being under water and looking upwards.  Blurry at best.

Kim and I still talk about that phone call when we received the news. 

I can’t actually remember what was said to me other than that Wil was shot and killed as he walked down a Chicago street.  I have no recollection of what I said other than asking if the phone call was a joke.  Kim and I still talk about us not knowing how we drove from Philadelphia to Fredericksburg that night or early morning.  Neither of us can remember the trip other than stopping at a fast food restaurant for something to drink.  Neither of us can clearly remember the phone calls we made either in the car or once we arrived back home.  We can’t clearly remember who we spoke to or who we didn’t.  Neither of us can clearly remember the emails that were exchanged and with whom we exchanged them.  It’s such an odd, empty, and surreal feeling to have, and such a weird state to be in.  Again, like being under water and looking up. Blurry at best.

As a family, we talk about how we moved through each day last year trying to “carry on” with what we were “supposed” to do.  Things that were or should have been important, didn’t seem to be as much.  Not really. 

I mean, for me, I still have a building of 1900 kids and about 150 staff members to work with and lead.  I did the best I could, though I know I fell far short of what I expect of myself.  Perhaps I fell short of what others expect of me.  I don’t have any excuses other than to say that I did the best I could. 

At the same time, just like that trip from Philly to Fredericksburg, I have no idea how I made the journey from July 12, 2014 to today, Almost A Year later.  None. 

Parts of it I remember.  I recall how absolutely petrified I was to stand in front of my staff the first time after Wil’s death.  I had no idea what to expect.  I can’t even remember what took place that first day, that first meeting.  In August, all the administrators in the district have a retreat and series of workshops, and to be honest, I can’t tell you what took place.  I know I dreaded those days and like my first meeting with my staff, I was petrified to be there among them.

Almost A Year.

Zak Brown has a lyric that pretty much defines it for me: “Sometimes I feel like a clown who can’t wash off his makeup.” 

That pretty much sums it up for me.  Each morning I put one foot in front of the other and move forward.  I wear my smile because I’m supposed to, need to.  As much, I think, for me as for others, especially for Kim, and Hannah and Emily.

Everyone handles grief differently, yet in the same way.  There is profound sadness and denial.  There is anger . . . much anger.  There is the constancy of trying to find the “why” behind all of it. There is the search for “reasons” and the “purpose” behind it. 

But . . . the frustrating reality is that there is no real “why” and there is no real “reason” and to be honest, though I believe I have a strong faith, I can’t seem to find the “purpose” in Wil’s death.

The grief of the tragedy will always be there.  Always.  Some days will be better than others, while some days, like today, it’s all too real.  Suffocating, really.

But life does go on.  I have a wonderful wife who I’m lucky to call my best friend.  I have two daughters who I love dearly and who I’m so very proud of.  Life does go on.  And it should.

I can talk about Wil’s death, and I do talk about Wil’s death when asked.  I don’t necessarily volunteer much because each of us, Kim, Hannah and Emily, and I have found that discussing it with some is too uncomfortable.  So mostly, we’ve learned to keep it in, tucked away, buried except when we’re with each other: Kim, Hannah and Emily, and me.

In an early post (July 26, 2014) titled “Some Not So Final Thoughts” I wrote about three ideas that I felt needed to be conveyed.  Three ideas that each of us need to take to heart.  They are as relevant today as they were last year.  They are:

Live Your Life: your own life, each day, each moment.  Don’t waste it because time is precious and one never knows when it will be taken from us.

Make A Positive Difference: in your life and in the lives of others.  There is too much ugliness in this world already, so we don’t need to contribute to it.  Not even a little.  At times, it can be as small a gesture as a kind word or a smile.  A gentle touch.  But we need to do this each day, and often each day. And never forget that while there is ugliness in this world, there is much beauty and much to be hopeful about.  Never forget that.  So take the time to spread and be a part of a Positive Difference.

Let Those In Your Life Know You Love Them: please, please, don’t take love, or them, for granted.  You can’t.  You must not.  Each person in your life means something to you or that person wouldn’t be in your life.  Please, please, let them know how much they mean to you, why they mean something to you, and most of all, that you love them.  Because you never know when that someone will be taken from you.  Don’t put it off.  Do it now.

Each of you who take the time to read my posts, I thank you.  I hope I make a positive contribution to your life in some small way each week.  I hope my writing impacts you in some way, helps you to pause and consider.  To appreciate, sometimes to question.  Thank you for participating in this journey with me.  And I truly hope that you take the time to impact someone on their journey.  Because whether we like it or not, whether we understand it or not, we’re in this life together, for each other.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!


  1. Beautiful words. I never had the chance to meet Wil but if he was anything like his dad then he was a wonderful man. I pray for you my friend.

  2. Thank you, Chuck. I appreciate it.


Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe