A sudden death is never easy. But when a seemingly healthy athletic teenager dies without warning, the loss is particularly wrenching.
That’s what the family and friends of Justin Bailey of Natick, Mass., faced in January, when the 17-year-old high school senior died at home, of natural causes, shortly before heading out to an ice hockey game.
“He was the epitome of a team player,” his coach, Natick High School varsity hockey coach Karl Infanger, was quoted as saying. “His teammates loved having him around.”
And they did their best to keep Justin’s memory close by for the rest of the season, according to a touching story I read in yesterday’s Boston Globe. The piece described how his teammates went to Justin’s gravesite before games, held hands, and pledged, “We’re going to do this for you, buddy.” They also hung his No. 17 jersey behind their bench after arriving at a rink, and they touched it and recited his name before stepping onto the ice.
Justin’s parents helped the young skaters cope by attending games and bringing cookies. “I really believe we mourn for the living,” his dad, Ben, reflected. “Being there for each other is important.”
So although they didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to Justin, they managed -- through rituals and the caring adults around them -- to keep him in their presence, a part of the team.
You can read the latest story about Justin Bailey here.
Consider this ...
There are many ways to say goodbye to someone after the fact.
Creating rituals to honor the person who has died can help with healing.