My younger brother's best friend
died my senior year of high school
. He was 16.
It was the strangest thing. He didn't drink, he didn't smoke pot or do any other drugs. He didn't drive crazy (hell, he'd gotten his licence less than a year before). He didn't do any of the things that the after school specials tell you to avoid if you want to live.
He just played sports. And he loved them.
Joel was in baseball, basketball, soccer, and track. Strangely, it was track, the least potentially lethal sport of the three, that led to his death.
Joel was a pole vaulter. A somewhat dangerous event, but certainly not lethal. One day, at practice, he jumped, his head jerked at a weird angle, and then he fell just outside of the mats. Although everyone was worried, nobody considered it anything too outside of the normal events in a track setting. Then, one of his teammates noticed that he wasn't breathing.
Seth (a friend of mine's cousin) gave him CPR and held Joel's hand until the paramedics came, repeating over and over again, "It's gonna be ok, Joel ..."
He was wrong.
Joel was snapped into a coma in the middle of his jump, in midair. His neck snapped and his nervous system was so damaged that he was nothing more than a vegetable.
After three days of cerebral inactivity, Joel's mother had the life support pulled, saying that Joel never would have wanted to live that way. And she was right.
At Joel's funeral, an older woman, probably a member of his church, walked up to my brother, my stoic little brother who was so sad that he couldn't do anything but cry, and said, "It's ok, honey ... he's with God now."
My brother, a fairly religious person, looked up through his tears and glared at the woman. "What kind of fucking God would take one of the most wonderful people I know? What kind of God would let JOEL die?"
He stopped going to church that day.