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Love one another while we can, where we are

Twelve-year-old Chanler Smith, from my wife’s hometown of Hurley, died this week in a four-wheeler accident.

My deepest sympathies go out to his family.  I cannot imagine the pain of this type of loss.

Chanler was neighbor and best friend to my wife’s young cousin, whom the family calls “Trick.” His loss, however, I can identify with because my best friend died when I was 12, too.

My friend Darryl died from head injuries — as did Chanler — after a bicycle accident when he slid out in front of an oncoming vehicle. I can’t speak for either of these families — or any other — who has lost a child. But my heart breaks for them.

I cannot tell you when I “got over” my friend’s death. Mainly because that has not yet happened, and I’m almost 50. But I can tell you that I am at peace now.

The last conversation I had with Darryl took place in his front yard as we tossed a football to each other. Among other things, each of us made sure the other knew Jesus as Savior, and was destined for eternity with him on the day we died.

We spoke over each other trying to ask the question that had been burning in our minds and hearts as something we urgently needed to know from one another.

Neither of us knew that end of life was coming much sooner than expected for one of us.

Whenever I think of Darryl, there is a slight pang of loss and wonder over whether we would still be close friends, what he would have grown up to accomplish, what his livelihood and adult interests would be … would he be married, have children and even grandchildren by now? There’s also relief and happiness from knowing that he’s better than ever right now and I’ll get to see him again one day.

I never know when I’ll think of him. I can’t tell you the last time before this week that he came to mind, because I just don’t remember when it was.

But yesterday I saw a photo of a 12-year-old boy standing next to a deer he’d harvested as it hung to be dressed, and he was smiling ear-to-ear.

That boy looked so much like I remember Darryl, as we watched his dad and another man clean a buck they’d brought home and hung from a rack in Darryl’s grandmother’s garage.

He looked like someone who was looking forward to getting lots of meat and trophies in the future.

The boy in the picture was Chanler and he looked so happy. I hope photos like that will bring memories of happiness to his parents, his older brother and the rest of his family, and to his friends like Trick.

Please remember, it only takes a moment for something to go wrong, for a loved one to no longer be there. There doesn’t have to be someone who did something wrong — things happen and in the blink of an eye everything can change.

As cliché as it sounds, dying really is a part of life. That doesn’t make it the least bit easier, but I hope it reminds us of how precious life is and to show love to one another while we can, where we are.

I’m grateful to live in Brookhaven, in Lincoln County, and I pray we will be known as loving people.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.