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Mercer teacher remembers student athlete who lost his life Saturday

By ERIN HAYS MILBURN

Guest columnist

“Life’s not fair.”

Twenty-three years ago, when I worked as a writer for the local newspaper, I used that phrase to begin one of the most difficult columns I ever had to write in remembrance of a young man who had been snatched out of his family’s life and the life of our community much, much too soon.

The loss then was excruciating and senseless and personal and one I hoped to never feel again. But now, all these years later, I find myself and our community again reeling under the blow of another inexplicable tragedy resulting in the loss of another life of promise, and after racking my brain, and after all this time, I still cannot think of anything else to say. Life is just not fair.

Marcus Lewis was a good kid. He’s been in my dual-credit English class for the past eight and a half months and I have come to know him as a sweet, slightly goofy young man with a ready smile and a deep bass voice. He is an accomplished athlete here at MCSH and one of the popular students whom everybody seems to know in one way or another.

Early on May 4, a foggy, rainy, Saturday morning, while driving a friend to Richmond, his car left the road and struck a tree and in one millisecond, Marc’s big booming laugh, ever-present smile, optimistic attitude, love for his family and his girlfriend and his friends, and dreams of becoming an orthodontist, moved from the present and future tense to the past, to be enshrined forever in the hearts and minds of all of us who knew and loved him.

And so I sit here in my empty classroom on this chilly Sunday afternoon, trying with all my heart to summon some kind of comfort, some words of wisdom, some rational explanation of how this awful tragic accident could happen and, just like 23 years ago, I can’t come up with a thing.

I don’t know why Marc’s life ended the way it did and right now it’s hard to see how we will all get through the next two weeks; Marc and his friends and classmates were getting so excited about finishing high school, going on the senior trip, graduation, Project Grad, and summer fun before college, and now much of that sense of excitement has been replaced with grief and heartbreak.

Instead of senior pranks and the anxious giddiness of this last transition from childhood to adulthood, we now have to face a memorial service and all the raw emotion that will consume this coming week. Instead of planning and speculating and dreaming of what comes next, we will weep and embrace and work hard to galvanize all the memories and moments we’ve had with Marcus into permanent keepsakes we will hold and cherish, in his honor, as a memorial to that boy we all knew, who loved children, who loved to run and loved to laugh and sometimes had to struggle to keep his attention focused.

On Friday, I was chiding Marc about staying “tuned in” to what we were doing; at least two or three times in the past few weeks, I laughingly encouraged his girlfriend to break up with him — this was a standing joke with Marc — every time I said it I would get that great big grin of his and maybe even a chuckle. He knew I was kidding and I knew that even if I wasn’t there was no chance those two were going to let each other go — my heart breaks for that sweet girl tonight. Her life will never be the same — like for so many others: Marc’s dad and his family, his teammates and coaches, his teachers and friends, Marc’s absence leaves a gaping hole that nothing but time and God’s mercy and grace can ever fill. I pray for that mercy and grace to be abundant and encircling in the coming days, especially for Marc’s father, who bears the greatest loss of all.

So that’s it, that’s all I’ve got.

No wisdom, no answers, no real comfort right now. It’s too soon. For now, we hold tightly to each other, to our school family and to the only One who gets to see that big smile and hear that deep laugh today.

Early on the morning of May 4, 2019, Marcus Lewis woke up from this dream of life that we all remain in — as we dream on without him, we cling to the hope of that waking world, where one day we will all meet again.

Goodbye, Marc. You are dearly loved and you will be greatly missed.