Below is the response as it appeared in The Community Life last week.
After reading Jessica Humphrey’s article in the Community Life this week, I felt I needed to respond. When it was first sent to me, I glanced at the picture of Lee and Jess, skimmed the article and closed the paper. I wasn’t prepared to see him there and it felt too painful to continue. Later that evening, I felt compelled to read it and when I did, I realized it was something I had not read before despite the fact that Jess and I communicate fairly regularly. It’s very hard for me to read about my son, Lee, and what happened to him. When I read words like “passed away,” “first responders,” “death,” “severe burns” – I’m brought painfully back to July 22, 2006 and I cringe at each phrase and close my eyes in a weak attempt to block the images from my mind.
I am, however, so very proud of Jessica and happy for her that she has been able in some way to move forward through her intense grief and attempt to make the difference that both honors Lee’s life and raises awareness to perhaps save a life. Clearly raising awareness about lightning safety is a worthwhile and important cause. Awareness also needs to be raised about teenagers and grief. I have watched Lee’s friends through a horrific journey at a tender age and although I believe they will all be okay, perhaps there are ways of counseling our young adults in the immediate aftermath of experiencing this type of personal tragedy. For the unfortunate parents and siblings who are hit with this kind of disaster, there are support groups like The Compassionate Friends.
Jess is fortunate to have found an outlet in her writing. Not everyone is as gifted in that way but still need to be encouraged to find a way to deal with their own journey. Professionals trained specifically to work with young people in this type of situation would be welcomed addition to our school system. The effects of the kids are both immediate and long lasting and perhaps support groups that target their needs might be beneficial as well.
At the end of the day with all that has passed and all the damage that has been done, “lucky” is not a word I use to describe my life but I do feel blessed to have Jessica in my life, who is not only my new friend but a gifted writer passionate in her attempt to learn and educate others about lightning safety. It is Jessica who bears witness to the life of a best friend and son taken too soon.