By Kathi Bliss
It seems far too many times in the last 13 years, I’ve felt called to use this space to discuss the destruction of youth. Far too many times, our community has woken up on a random morning being forced to stare down the tragedy of a young person, gone too soon, the night before.
When those things happen, I think we all struggle to make sense of it, whether we were close to the center of the tragedy or not. In the case of the nightmare deaths of Isaac and Lauren Garcia last week, it seems the tragedy was exponentially crippling – it’s the stuff of a small community’s worst nightmare.
An attractive and loving young couple, at the starting line of their lives, planning a future that neither one can see without the other. The pair, according to their families and friends, had plans and dreams for their own lives; central to those dreams was the presence of the other, along every step of the way.
On the other side, more young people. Friendly and fun-loving, their social media accounts seem to indicate that they liked to work hard and play hard.
Four futures lay sparkling ahead, seemingly stretching out forever.
All clipped short in one horrific moment.
I don’t know the truth to the rumors of what really happened that night. I don’t know if there was a road race, or if there was road rage, or if there was underage drinking out on FM 672 last Wednesday evening. I was not there; no one who was not there can say for sure. I know that a lot of dreams were shattered, and no fewer than six families laid bare for reasons we’ll never really understand.
One of Isaac’s cousins gave an impassioned plea, during the service on Monday afternoon, to remind people of all ages not to drink and drive. Lauren’s cousin encouraged the families and friends to forgive, rather than hate. And to tell you the truth, I think that both are better and more forgiving people than I might be able to be, if I were standing in their shoes. But they both made me stop and think about what happened, how bad it was, and how much worse it could have been.
The boys in the car that crossed the center lane and hit Isaac’s truck, they both survived. They’re both seriously injured, and what their future holds remains unclear. But they’re alive. Still, my heart hurts for them, knowing that they will have to live with the fallout of that night for the rest of their lives. I vaguely remember being 19… I remember never thinking that there could be consequences for my decisions, and even if there WERE consequences, it didn’t occur to me that the worst of those consequences might fall to someone else to pay.
I’m sure Santiago, the young man driving that truck, never thought so, either. And I feel for him, that he’s going to have to live every day for the rest of his life, knowing what happened that night.
That’s a fate I’d not wish on anyone – certainly not on a young person with so much life ahead of him.
And so I say, to all my young friends, please learn from this. I know it’s hard, and I know it hurts. I wish it didn’t have to. I sincerely hope that this is the worst it has to hurt, from here on out, in your young lives. I also hope that you’ll stop and think, about this moment in time, about this confusion and questioning, when you’re tempted to make decisions that could turn out dangerous.
I remember what it’s like to be young, happy and relatively free. I’d never ask any of you to not enjoy this snapshot of your lives to the fullest extent – you deserve that. But the unfortunate part of learning the lessons that will bring you into adulthood is remembering that you may not be the one to pay for your own choices; as human beings who share space and time, we’re all in this together. The lives your decisions impact, might be more than your own.
Your decisions might impact strangers. They might impact old friends. There is only one power in the Universe that has those answers – and that power is not walking around Lockhart on two legs.
I wish peace and healing for everyone impacted by this tragedy – in particular the families and friends of Lauren and Isaac who, as expressed over and over in the last week, can at the very least take comfort in the knowledge that they will, in fact, continue to share in their love for one another forever.
May they rest in peace.