Lessons in Death

A week ago tomorrow, a young life was lost. He was just eight years old, and died tragically in a car accident with his father and stepmother, leaving behind two older brothers and a host of other family and friends who cared about him. I had the honor of being touched by this family and getting to know them pretty well.

I believe that everyone comes into our life for a purpose, and that we can learn from anyone if we open our self up to it. I started thinking Saturday after the funeral for this young man and his family about what I could gain from knowing them. Here is what I came up with after thinking about Zach and my contact with him.

1) Greet everyone with a hug. Zach was a hugger. He greeted you with a hug, and left you with a hug and often had a few in between. It didn’t matter what his mood, he always had a hug. I had to smile when the pastor giving the eulogy recalled his last contact with Zach, hugging his leg. Human contact is so important, research has shown that it is vital.

2) Smile. I started thinking, there was not a single day, regardless of what was happening that Zach did not have a smile. It doesn’t take anything to share a smile.

3) It is okay to show emotions. I remember one day Zach had gotten into trouble. Even though he gave me a smile when I came in, he was not concerned with letting me see how mad and sad he was about being in trouble.

4) Share with others. I admit sometimes I didn’t want it, but Zach always had a gift he had made – a little arts and craft that he had made – plastic mesh, a picture, etc. He would give me clovers and flowers, whatever he had. It never cost him anything, but it was worth everything to him.

5) Take time to play a game. Zach liked to play hangman. I have to laugh because usually his word was his name. One time, he spelled it wrong. However, he didn’t let it get to him, he just drew more lines as we went.

6) Someone always gets left behind. Zach left behind two older brothers, a mother, step and half siblings that loved him. As much as we like to keep connections, there are times that we move on and leave others. Hopefully it is for something better, like Zach getting to be in Heaven free from pain and the troubles of life. But sometimes it isn’t, like for his family and friends. We still have to move on, taking the good memories with us and leaving the rest behind.

7) Life goes by too quick. Zach was eight years old. He had his whole life ahead of him. I know I take for granted so much, I hope that I will always remember his short life, his smile, his laugh, his hugs, his games, his gifts – and not take so much for granted.

Rest in Peace Zachary E. Smith, safe in the arms of God.

July 3, 2001 to January 19, 2010

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