I am saddened by the death of Jerry Brown. I am discouraged that his death is the result of poor decisions made by his close friend who now faces manslaughter charges.
In talking about this tragedy, former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy spoke about the need to discuss life choices with players, and with one's own children. He related how he had met a young man years earlier who had gone to prison for nine years on vehicular homicide charges. This man told Coach Dungy that those nine years were nothing compared to waking up every morning knowing that he had been responsible for the death of three people. Coach had to have him speak to the team - an ultimate lesson from horrible experience.
When I learned of Brown's death, I spoke to my ten-year-old son. These moments are not ones to let slip by without having a discussion, a preventative good that can come from something so senseless.
"Can you imagine carrying around that guilt for the rest of your life?" I said to my son. "Knowing that you had killed someone by your stupid decisions?"
My husband also pointed out that now the man responsible, Josh Brent, would go to prison for his mistake.
This is not a new topic, though we speak of different lives being affected. After our car accident this fall, I asked my husband to speak to our two eldest, who had not been in the van, about the motorcyclist who hit us and the circumstances that led up to his death. The conversation was a lengthy one, but my children will not forget it. They know the impact.
He had been in a minor accident just minutes before ours and had fled that scene before he made the decision to run the red light at the intersection where I was preparing to turn left. When his motorcycle hit the front of our van at such a high speed, he and his bike were thrown. He was not wearing a helmet.
It devastates me that he died. It devastates me that I was involved in an accident that ended a life when I wish to do harm to no one. And, as I recently told my closest friends, I feel that I now have a responsibility to mourn that man all my life, though my sorrow must be far less than what his family and friends feel.
Lives are forever altered by split-second decisions which is why we must give our children the tools to be circumspect in the face of temptation. Sometimes, no matter how badly we wish it for someone, there are no second (or third or fourth) chances. I do not see a motorcycle now without thinking about a bulky black bike lying on the pavement. Certainly I will never gaze at some tough motorcyclist wearing no helmet without righteous anger that the state of Arizona has no law requiring him to wear one. And when, as happened just this week, traffic becomes congested at an odd time and someone mentions that it's because of a bad motorcycle accident, I will be reminded and grieve all over again for the man who hit me and for all the people affected by a fresh tragedy.
I am sad now about something very particular. But I cannot imagine the sadness Josh Brent will carry, because he chose to drive impaired.