Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Learning to handle grief is difficult for children
Every Thursday I carve out some time to write this column. This Thursday morning my grandson Jake Albritton is attending a funeral. It is a rare experience for a 14-year-old.
The deceased was a mentor and schoolmate of Jake’s. Bryan Valliere, 18, was killed last Sunday in a one-vehicle accident on US Highway 231 in Wetumpka. A friend and younger classmate was driving the truck.
School was cancelled
today so students could attend
I will not attend the funeral but I will be praying for Jake and his classmates. Their school lessons have been put aside this week. Basketball games have been cancelled. The focus of the school has shifted to one thing: the sudden, tragic death of a promising young man.
Death is like
that. It will rear its ugly head and slap you in the face when you are least
expecting it. Jake was in the woods hunting when a friend called on his cell phone to tell him about
That is often the way we meet death. One day you are carefree, enjoying the good life. The next moment you are numb, shocked into disbelief by the abrupt ending of someone’s life. It makes no sense. Questions beginning with the word “Why” jam the switchboard of your brain.
jarring encounter with death is reminiscent of my own introduction to the Grim
Reaper when I was about Jake’s age. My cousin “Buck” Johnson died ironically on
the same highway, US 231, north of
Buck and I were good friends. We enjoyed playing together whenever our families shared a meal on holidays. Suddenly he was gone. No one could explain to me why he had to die. I found no answers that made any sense.
So I am praying for Jake. He will grow up a lot this week. His life will never be the same. Mine was not. There was a gripping new awareness of the reality of death, a sobering realization that young people might not live to be old just because they wished it so.
another coincidence in Jake’s experience and my own. Seniors write out a “Last
Will and Testament” that is printed in most high school annuals.
Jake will wear 79 for the rest of the time he plays football. He will never
forget his friend Bryan or the special gift he left him. Even more, I have an
idea that Jake’s memory of
I wish I had saved my Wetumpka High football jersey. It would be old and tattered but if I had it, I would give it to Jake to hang on his wall. My number was also 79.
Jake, I share the grief of
Coping with grief is so difficult for children. Hopefully those of us who are older and a little wiser can provide the love, hope, and understanding that children need in such an hour. + + + +