Mortality Lessons Taught Early, Often

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It was disturbing to hear early reports on Saturday about a pedestrian being killed near the Route 50 Bridge leading into Ocean City. It became horrifying when it was revealed it was a teenager and to make matters worse it was a local, a sophomore at Stephen Decatur High School from a respected local family.

Local teacher Michelle Hammond, perhaps showing why she was named the state’s teacher of the year a few years back, eloquently wrote on the local daily’s website that she was a better person for having taught young Matthew Barcase for 180 days while he was enrolled at Stephen Decatur Middle School.

Other comments on the same site dealt with some beliefs the allegedly impaired driver, who reportedly admitted to police he consumed four beers during a round of golf, should be facing a heavier fine, a higher bail and strict punishment. That’s a matter for the court system to work out over the coming weeks. Others are concerned about the lack of a pedestrian crosswalk and an appropriate median in the area. That’s a matter for state road officials to review as well.

While these matters do deserve the attention of decision makers, there are two aspects in this wake of this fatality we think deserve the most thought: the family’s devastating loss and the painful lesson in mortality for his fellow students at Decatur.

There is nothing worse for a parent than losing a child at a young age. It’s dying out of order and these types of tragedies happen all too often, but the fact they are frequent does not make it any easier for anybody, particularly those dealing with the consequences. This is the gravest of tragedies and an unimaginable grief to bear. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and others close to him.

There’s nothing positive that comes from an unexpected death of the young. However, it’s our hope Barcase’s friends at Decatur get the help they need to appropriately handle and digest this tragedy. Additionally, they should take away one of life’s most valuable lessons. It has everything to do with mortality.

This editor first learned this life lesson in college when a classmate, someone I knew from the school paper, died from spinal meningitis. I remember reading a quote in the school newspaper that week about how the college president hoped the student body was coming to grips with its mortality after this terrible tragedy. It was a point thought to be insensitive at the time, but it’s the right message, one of savoring life and realizing how precious it can be.

What happened to this local teen was a terrible accident and youngsters, as well as adults in many cases, need a reminder it can happen to anyone. Unfortunately, the student body, administrators and teachers at Stephen Decatur have felt this sadness all too often in a short period of time, as Barcase became the third student to unexpectedly die this school year.

Time has proven capable of miraculous healing, and that’s exactly what it will take for all involved to recover emotionally from this terrible tragedy. In the short term, remembering, mourning and celebrating the young man’s life is the greatest show of respect anyone can pay him.

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