September 14 started out as just a normal day. I drove Dylan to school, kissed him goodbye and told him that his brother Zakkary would pick him up from school that day. After dropping Dylan off, I returned home to begin my day. My 25 year old son Zakkary was a graduate of Evans High School and was pursuing a professional career in the music industry as a talented singer-songwriter and brilliant guitarist. Zakkary was home with me that day.
Around 2:30 p.m., I began washing clothes, cleaned the house and prepared lunch. I made Chicken Parmigiana (Zakkary’s favorite meal) and as he left the house, I told him that I loved him and told him to be careful.
At 3:23 p.m., right around the time my children should have arrived home, my phone began ringing off the hook. I began receiving calls and texts from strangers saying, ” I am here with your children. They have been in a bad accident.” Trumpets of fear and desperation blared in my head. My children were less than a mile from home. As I ran outside to get into my car, I realized my kids were in my car and I had no way to get to them.
Right then a complete stranger (who I now know as Glenn) pulled up and said, “Let’s Go!” I jumped into the car. On the way to the hospital, I learned that a distracted driver hit my children. I also learned that Dylan (who miraculously walked away unharmed) asked this kind and considerate man Glenn to help Zakkary as he lay dying in the middle of the expressway. As my children were being taken away by ambulance, Dylan gave Glenn my number, our address and asked him to help me.
As I listened to this devastating news, I screamed frantically and hysterically to God to please let my children be ok. En route to the hospital, we passed the horrific scene. My heart sank as I saw the complete devastation: four vehicles, eight injuries and two days later my son Zakkary would be listed as a fatality. The scene was horrific.
Once I got to the hospital, I desperately searched for someone to tell me where my children were. Once I finally talked to a neurosurgeon, I was told Zakkary was brought to the hospital on life support and during surgery his heart stopped beating. I was told they revived him but his blood would not clot so they had to stop surgery. I was told Zakkary was in very fragile condition and could not be moved due to severe head injuries. I saw the hopelessness in the doctor’s eyes and my world stopped.
Once we were allowed to see Zakkary, he was unrecognizable. For the next two days, Zakkary’s hospital room was filled with family and friends and we shared in stories of how Zakkary had touched our lives. We tried to help fill the void in our hearts and tried to help ease the pain of looking at him in such bad shape.
On September 16, we were told Zakkary had no brain activity. We begged for more tests, begged for answers, begged for solutions, begged for an escape but there were none. Later that day, Brian and I began discussing funeral arrangements.
On Sept 23, we held memorial services for Zakkary and over 200 people were in attendance. There was an enormous outpouring of love and support from family, friends and the community. Zakkary’s friends and acquaintances shared wonderful memories of how he touched their lives and nothing anyone posted or said was a surprise, because Zakkary was a unique, kind and gentle spirit. The stories merely reflected back upon us the light that Zakkary shone throughout his life.
There’s a beautiful story about great jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in The Atlantic Monthly written by David Hadju. In the article, Hadju described a time that he was at the Village Vanguard watching Marsalis play the ballad, “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You.” As Marsalis reached the climax of the song, he began playing the final phrase when someone’s cell phone went off, fully wrecking the moment.
Marsalis paused, put his trumpet down at his side and stood motionless. After a few seconds, however, Marsalis took this rude interruption and did something amazing. Without missing a beat, he picked up on the tune of the cell phone’s ring and incorporated it into the song he was playing, blending it with what he’d planned to play. Because that’s what great musicians do, they improvise.
Zakkary’s life has been rudely interrupted but we must take the ring of death and discord and turn it into life. It is my intention to transform this rude interruption into an improvised moment of glory by bringing beauty out of tragedy, heroism out of selfishness and salvation out of sacrifice. “I loved a boy with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me. Yet, in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such as treasure, I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it.” – William Wordsworth
This article appears in the November 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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