If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. i'll always be with you.”
Quote from Winnie the Pooh -- Read at Keegan Adkins Tree Dedication
I did not know Keegan Adkins. There is a strong chance that his path crossed mine. He may have been one of the kids I smiled at as I swam at the pool. I'm sure he was one of the smiling kindergartners at his school who seemed to be having so much fun at his school's field day only a few short months ago.
Keegan died not long ago. An accidental death, drowning in the same pool that my in-laws belonged to and my daughter swam in several times a week. He became a hero in death, donating his organs so that others may live. Last night they held a tree planting ceremony at his school, planting a tree and dedicating a bench and plaque not far from the playground that he loved.
I watched his classmates last night. Little kids who don't understand the depth of tragedy. In truth, I'd been there. As a teenager several classmates died in various sad and tragic deaths while I was in high school. You sense that it is sad, but the sense of permanence isn't as complete. It's easier to compartmentalize that they've simply moved away, or even that you'll see them again.
But when you're an adult, and especially a parent, the loss becomes more profound. I imagine every adult at the tree planting ceremony looked at the picture of Keegan and thought not of Keegan specifically, but rather of their own child smiling back at them. We've given life to our children and devoted our lives to them. They drive us crazy, sometimes take us in paths we never dreamed, and never quite turn out how we imagine, but they're ours, and the one pleasure in life we shouldn't be denied is seeing them grow into the people they wish to be. When I looked at Keegan's picture, I thought of all 9 years of my daughter Maddie's life. How the little person she was at Keegan's age is blossoming into the young woman she is now. I thought of how all the sleeplessness, effort, worry, and frustration always gets paid 100 times over in love. I could not imagine not having all 9 of those years with her nor the 50 or more I hope will follow until I pass on.
After the ceremony ended, the kids in attendance ran to the nearby playground to play. I'd spent many hours working on raising money for this playground as a PTA board member. To be honest, I never was that thrilled by raising money for it, and I always thought that the time, effort, and money spent on it could be put to better use.
But last night I saw those kids on the playground and reflected on the knowledge that Keegan's tree was planted near it because it was his favorite place at the school. I watched the kids running around it, climbing all over it, and just hanging out around it. I realized in some small way I got to play a part in his young life, and his bench and tree would always stare back at the place I helped build. It was then that I really missed this little boy I never knew.
Rest in peace, Keegan. May your memory live on in those who knew you and loved you, and your life live on in those you helped save.