In May, friends of mine buried their 22-year-old son. I remember Luke Messick as the blonde headed 3- or 4-year-old tagging along during puppet shows who never had anything but a smile on his face. Apparently that is something he never outgrew. The smiling that is.
He is being remembered as an up-and-coming soccer star who led his teams from elementary school in Virginia through an Olympic Development Program in Spain and back to Virginia where he helped found, managed and played for a semi-pro team in Ashland. His teammates and coaches speak of him both as a stellar player and “relentlessly positive” leader and mentor.
Luke was in the process of creating a charity to fund soccer equipment for children in Ghana after seeing Instagram posts of orphans playing soccer with no soccer balls.
His death was a loss for the world as well as for his family and friends.
This news of Luke’s accident came as I was feeling low about the first Mother’s Day I’ve ever spent without at least one of the two people who made me a mother and the prospect of birthday season (all of our birthdays are within nine days) without them as well.
My first thought was I had no right to feel bad when others have lost so much. Right here at home an entire community is mourning the loss of Brooklyn Eggers, Gavin Werner and Rylon Cook and dealing with the impacts of that accident on a fourth teen. That is so much bigger than my empty-nest syndrome.
I wasn’t even alone for the holidays. I didn’t have my children nearby, but I did manage to have a good day for Mother’s Day with my niece and grand-nieces in Kansas. I even got to make a princess dress for the littlest one.
And then they, as well as a nephew and grandnephew, came up to Iowa for my birthday - OK, they really came to help Grandad wrangle cows, but I will claim the day because I can.
So how can I feel even a little blue when I haven’t actually lost anything? Why is there a cloud over the day as I muddle through the final birthday of the season with nary a cake in sight? Truth be told, most years by the time we got to the fourth birthday in less than two weeks, nobody wanted more cake anyway.
Why? Because loss matters.
Whether it’s big or small, it matters. You get to feel what you feel. I can feel my own losses without lessening the empathy I have for my friends and the family and friends of the teenagers in Murray.
The loss of three teenagers who haven’t had a chance to make their marks on the world or one 20-something who was well on his way to doing just that isn’t the same as a mother who is missing her children on important days. But it doesn’t have to be in order to be real.
The loss of a pet or the end of an era or friends who are moving away are real losses and should be felt and walked through, not squashed down to erupt at some other time.
Grief is not a competition. If it were, it would be a team sport - a marathon we all run together.
The most important thing is to do something with your grief. Write a letter to that friend who is moving. Find a way to remember those you’ve lost in a positive way. Write a poem, sing a song. Acknowledge your loss and start taking steps to move on (baby steps, if that’s all you can do). Help those who are in the middle of a situation you’ve already been through.
As for me, I’m going to write this column and then cherish every precious second I do get to interact with my children and other family members.
Losses, big or small, permanent or temporary, nearby or far away, matter.
Tell me what matters to you at firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at the newspaper: c/o Creston News Advertiser, 503 W. Adams St., Creston, Iowa, 50801.
If you’d like to help support the families of the teenagers in Murray, there are GoFundMe accounts set up as “Expenses for Brooklynn and Tyson” and “Help Christina and Todd Cook with funeral expenses” and a memorial account for Gavin Werner at American State Bank in Osceola.
If you’d like to know more about the Luke Messick Futbol Charities, visit facebook.com/lukemessickfc.