I did not know Chris Smith. I knew he was a football player at Greenbrier High School who played defensive back and wide receiver, but I had never met the young man.
That didn't stop me from being saddened by the news of his untimely death. I got a text message Saturday from former Greenbrier assistant coach Rodney Holder letting me know what happened. Smith, the text said, had drowned at the lake. I was taken aback; I mean, he was only 17.
That day I didn't call anyone regarding the tragic news. What else was there really to know, besides the bare facts? The county had lost another young person far too soon.
The following day I decided to call Holder to see how everyone was handling Smith's death. Holder is no longer a coach at Greenbrier, having taken over the football program at Grovetown High School. However, you could tell that he really thought highly of Chris Smith.
"He was just one of those kids that got along with everybody. No matter what group you were in at school, he was your friend," Holder said. He added that he was thinking about Smith in church and just remembered what a great kid he was to have on your team.
Like many in the county, Holder thought a great deal of Smith, and he was hurting over his death.
As if the terrible news of Smith's death was not enough, I found out later that the release of his name had been delayed by the sheriff's office while they contacted Smith's mother. His mom was in Afghanistan serving in the U.S. military.
As a parent, you certainly never want to get news that you will have to bury one of your children, but I cannot think of a worse scenario than this. If your job is to inform a parent that their 17-year-old boy has passed away, what do you say? How can you possibly conjure up any comments that will comfort them? What did Mrs. Smith need to hear to help her make the trip back home to the states, or to be able to sleep anytime in the next month?
I have no real answer. Very few people can honestly say they know what she is going through, because, thankfully, most will never receive such awful news.
All I can come up with is to let the family of Chris Smith know that an entire community is thinking about you. You are in our prayers and we are here for you to lean on. Please take solace in the fact that you obviously raised a terrific young man, a kid so well loved that even the coaches at Greenbrier are having a tough time coping with his passing.
He was taken way too soon, but in his time on earth Chris made a positive impact on the people around him.
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