This is how things did occur: I was with a group of people that night, including Molly Mathewson and Hailey McNamara. As the nights activities came to a close everyone was ready to head their separate ways when Hailey got a call from her mother, saying that her brother, Jake, had been in a car accident and she needed to go to the hospital right away. Molly offered to drive Hailey's car and I offered to lead them both to the hospital in my car. I knew the situation was serious, but I didn't think he'd die. I never thought he'd die. The only reason I had for assuming he'd be fine was because nothing like this ever happened. Things like this don't occur. You hear about them happening but they never happen.
The three of us got to the emergency room and found Hailey's parents, who informed us that Jake hadn't made it. The parents had obviously just recently learned the news themselves, and now Hailey knew. I've never been around a death that was unexpected. The only death in my life has come after prolonged illness that allowed for us to all prepare ourselves for the inevitable. These people weren't given that kindness. Jake was gone and that's that. There was no negotiating, no last goodbyes. Hailey was in shock. The parents were more openly grieving. Meanwhile, people filed in and out of the ER who had nothing to do with Jake. Who didn't know that Jake had died, who hadn't known Jake in the first place. It's weird, but I was a little angry with them.
Molly accompanied Hailey on a short walk before Zach, Jake's friend, met us at the hospital. We joined up and together the four of us walked around the hospital grounds, trying to distract and entertain Hailey. After a few hours Hailey, Molly and I went back to my house, where Hailey could be around someplace without the constant reminders of her house or the hospital.
There, Molly and I just listened. Hailey didn't want to eat, drink, or sleep. She couldn't. She just wanted to talk to us. Molly and I didn't know Jake, so Hailey used us as a blank slate. She painted us a picture of her brother, a picture that would later be completed by the pictures and stories at his wake. Jake was an intelligent, funny, cool guy. He was someone I would've liked.
Hailey had her ups and downs, but it's important that I saw an up. It didn't last long, but it was hours after she had lost her only brother. I saw one tiny sign of optimism or acceptance. To be frank, there's nothing there to truly be optimistic about. I'd like to think Molly and I helped her. I really think we did. Molly has continued to help her in a way that amazes me. Molly and I didn't stay at the hospital after learning the news out of obligation. We wanted to help Hailey through her time of need. It wasn't convenient for me to stay up with Hailey that night, but it was an opportunity that presented itself to me. I was there, and it was the right thing to do. I'm sure most would've done the same had they been there. Molly isn't waiting for an invitation. She's helping however she can. She's been the best friend someone could ask for in this horrible situation, and Molly doesn't even see that.
Jake died over a week ago. To many of us, it is, in a way, an event that's no longer relevant to us. I'm not trying to be accusatory. I'm not point fingers at every idle person who isn't running to the McNamara's aid. We can't feel what they're feeling. What they're feeling is a pain that's personal to them. No matter how considerate or compassionate we are, we will move on. We can't feel what they're feeling because if we did, if we did have the ability to feel every death around us as if it were our brother or son, life would be damn near impossible. So don't feel guilty that life has gone on. Just try to hold onto that feeling of empathy, and be there for a friend in need. I've seen a lot of people in the past week being the friends I would want to have, given the circumstances. I'm proud of them.
I'm telling this story because it means something to me, and I think it might mean something to you, if you're reading this. If was my first experience with unexpected death, something we will all, inevitably, have to deal with. Right now the McNamara's are dealing with it. Jake was 18. He was my age. He was going off to college in a week or two. That's terrifying. After last week I think I've learned another lesson in understanding. I will try to be there for people who need me, whether that help be solicited or otherwise. I think that's important. It took a horrible accident to really drive this home, so I'll value this. I'll take it to heart.