Article 4: We grapple with the enormity of our loss

From the Atlanta Jewish Times

By Jami Gaudet, Atlanta Jewish Times

ATLANTA (August 2003) – It was the kind of silently explosive headline that sends a collective shudder down the spine of everyone who has a child.

You might have seen the story in the newspaper, momentarily shaking your head, acknowledging the senseless violence in the world, and turned the page because such headlines are all too common. “Macon man murdered at Atlanta party.”

Except he wasn’t a man. He was a 20-year-old boy, just halfway through college who was my daughter Allison’s friend and fourth grade classmate. He was adorable by anyone’s standards; all hair, eyes, and eyelashes.

I spent numerous hours in their classroom doing enrichment. Mike was bright and pensive – an observer by nature who didn’t miss a trick but was content to let others do most of the talking. Allison said he was a boy’s boy who liked to play pirates on the playground bridge. She described him as creative and imaginative but spontaneous when he had something to share.

She said in those days girls liked Mike more than Mike liked girls, but he was a true friend to those who knew him. Mike and Allison parted ways academically when my children were zoned for a new elementary school, but they saw one another periodically during their teen years through mutual friends.

Mike became a striking young man, tall and Abercrombie bag gorgeous with a 100-watt smile. Somehow he skillfully navigated those potentially difficult teen years remaining close to each of his parents, as well as to his older sister and younger brother both of whom adored him. He was loyal to childhood friends and effortlessly made new ones.

Mike was never ashamed to openly love his family – to tell his parents he loved them whenever he left the house, did projects for his mother and spent time with his father doing guy things. He played sports and his prized Vine-Ingle baseball cap was usually on his head, covering his sun-streaked locks.

For spending money he parked cars at a local downtown eatery and found time to umpire Little League games when he stopped playing baseball competitively himself. The players loved him and their parents marveled at his congenial attitude – how he could control the game and maintain his sunny disposition.

All of this makes Mike’s loss even more baffling and tragic. Here was a family intact – more than intact, they were the Cleavers. His parents did things right, raising all three of their children with wisdom and dignity. There was quality time in great quantity. But despite his idyllic childhood, does our destiny come down to luck, to timing, to being a room away behind a closed door but in the path of a stray bullet?

There are many ways to interpret tragedy. Some view it philosophically, others fatalistically or religiously. The comments I heard most often were, “Somewhere this was written” or it’s “G-d’s plan.” I don’t buy either explanation. Mike’s mind-numbing murder shook my faith but hasn’t changed my mind. My G-d, though puzzling – especially at a time like this, is good and benevolent.

My G-d doesn’t orchestrate bad luck, flukes, or accidental shootings. I can’t explain Mike’s death except to say that G-d set the world in motion and watches as his children craft their lives.

This tragedy, like other accidents and natural disasters, consist of a series of perhaps unrelated actions or events that somehow come together. None of us can understand or explain such horror. We merely grapple with the enormity of our loss as best we can. I’ve seen teens construct crosses on highways for car accident victims, wear armbands or sew patches on athletic uniforms to remember young friends who die prematurely.

Mike’s friends’ chose the most heartwarming tribute to their slain buddy – a bumper sticker, with the locally famous hunter green and yellow Vine-Ingle logo, the same one that adorns Mike’s beloved baseball cap.

Barely 20, Mike Weaver was a shining example of how to live and a heartbreaking example of how to die. A large Macon church, filled to capacity with weeping mourners was a testament to the love, respect, and admiration the community has for the young man everyone considered a friend, and for his family. We pray for them as we struggle to understand the chilling randomness of this crime and its implications for all of us.

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