Last Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 my cousin’s son, Danny Debacker, was killed in a tragic car accident along with his best friend, Andy Adams. I didn’t know Danny well. The last time I saw him was at his graduation from High School, but I still find myself tearing up every time I think of him. I can only imagine the pain Danny’s family is going through right now. I’m sure they will all pull through it, but things will never be the same. Their lives will be forever impacted by this tragic and senseless death.
My cousin, Karen, and I became parents at about the same time. Danny was born just about 7 weeks after my daughter, Tabitha. Therefore, I can’t help but imagine the unspeakable grief I would feel if it was my own child who died.
As a minister, I have to deal with death a lot. I have no idea how many funerals I have officiated, but it’s a lot. Just a couple of weeks after I moved to Mena, there were three deaths of people we knew within about a week. This is not uncommon. Funerals seems to come in groups of threes. But this time the funerals were for people who were in different phases of life. One was teenager. He was out with a friend who fell asleep while driving and ran into a tree. The other was a middle-age man with a wife and kids at home. He died from a heart attack with absolutely no warning. The third was an elderly woman who had been struggling with cancer for many years. One thing I learned from these funerals is that there really isn’t an easy time to die.
None of these deaths was easy for the loved ones left behind. In each case, I saw at least someone with that terrified look asking the question, “what am I going to do now?” Each had to go home and face the empty rooms and see the pictures of the people they will never get to see again during this lifetime. Death is sad and may even be unbearable for those left behind. But these are not the really sad funerals. Nope, not even close.
The saddest funerals to me were the ones where there wasn’t any sorrow or grief to be seen anywhere. I was asked to do a funeral once of an elderly woman I didn’t know. When I visited family members to get some information, I was told that it really didn’t matter what I said. She was a mean selfish old bat who didn’t like anybody. NOW THAT”S SAD! I’ve also done a funeral for a woman who was disabled and in a nursing home for so long that her family was all gone, and the only people who knew her was a couple of nursing home staff.
We all have to die. The mortality rate continues steady at 100% (I just goggled it). It’s going to happen. We just don’t know when. We don’t get to choose how we die, but we get to choose how we live and this is one of the greatest things about Danny and his friend Andy. Their death was not good, but their lives were, and everybody knew it. Danny came from a loving family with great parents and grandparents. He was showered with love his whole life and he spread that love around to those he knew.
These two boys loved sports and it seems like the whole town knew who they were and loved to be around them. Not many people live lives that are so extraordinary the a their former graduating class from high school honors their lives by repainting a barn as a memorial to them.
After graduating high school Danny moved onto college and started impacting lives there. Danny transferred from Black Hawk Community College to Mount Mercy University in 2013. He had a double major in psychology and biology and he was member of the Mount Mercy men’s basketball team, as well as track and field. Within just a short time, Danny showed himself to be a superior person as well as an athlete. So much so that the Mustang softball team dedicated a game in his honor.
Danny’s life was short. Way too short. But he lived that life with honor and dignity. Danny’s funeral will be held on Monday, October 6. I am sure that there will be hundreds of people from all over the area in attendance. Danny didn’t live long, but he did live right. There are no words that comfort the sorrow the family is going through right now. With great love, there is great pain and loss. But I think, if I was given the choice, that’s how I would want to go out.