Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What I Learned at a Memorial Service

Anita and I attended a memorial service yesterday for a 14-year-old boy I know who was murdered by his stepdad less than two weeks ago.

The man who shot my young friend also killed the boy’s mother – his estranged wife – before turning his gun on himself. In doing so, he orphaned three young kids and broke countless hearts.

I’m not naming names in this post because I want to respect the privacy of the boy’s father, who used to be a good friend of mine before he moved to Cincinnati. As so often happens when folks relocate, our relationship became limited to Facebook posts and the occasional e-mail message. Seeing him yesterday at his son’s memorial service, though, it was as if he still lived just across town. I felt so sad for him and expected him to be inconsolable but I was surprised by how strong he seemed. (I leaned over to Anita at one point and whispered, “I’d be a basket case if I were him” and she, the mother of a 14-year-old, nodded in agreement.)

I was moved to tears several times during the ceremony and didn’t try to squelch or hide it. It was touching when the 14-year-old’s godfather shared a sweet anecdote about how the youngster schooled him about dinosaurs at a wedding a few years ago. It was gut-wrenching when my friend read a poem that had been written by his late son describing himself. And at the end, when a man played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, I’d guess there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

The reason I feel like blogging about the experience is because I want to share something else I felt in that church yesterday: love. Real, strong, good love. My friend was feeling it, of course, but so was I. So was Anita. And I’m sure others were too. You can call it love or good energy or a higher power’s presence or whatever you want, but it was palpable yesterday. I realized that’s probably how my friend was able to greet and talk with people. That’s what buoyed so many other friends and family members who had come together as a result of tragedy but left strengthened by the goodwill of the group. That’s what we have – and need – when we lose someone close: the love and concern and support of other people whose paths we’ve been fortunate enough to cross.

Yesterday I realized that this is what matters. Love. Friendship. Support. The goodwill of others. I even referenced it in my Facebook status when I came home:

Patrick Diehl was reminded today how important the connections we make with other people are.

It got a lot of likes.

Let me close this post by sharing a little bit about the boy we lost: He was exceptionally intelligent. He loved music. He played the piano and was learning to play the violin. He loved his three dogs and one cat. He was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan and a voracious reader who especially liked the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter series. He was also very compassionate – he looked out for those in trouble and stood behind kids who were bullied. At 14, he was just starting to find himself. And now he’s gone but will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, my young friend. Thank you for teaching me that nothing’s more important than family and friends.


  1. Thank you for the reminder to ALWAYS appreciate the people in our life !

  2. I was at the service too. The love in the room helped all of us to deal with another senseless loss of life due to violence. I could feel the emotion in the room as you did. We lost two amazing young people.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. It helps others of us grieve knowing we are not alone. And I so very much appreciate your story and the photo. There don't seem to be too many of them as shy tweens/teens are known for getting in front of the camera. The love and support of the community has been very comforting. So sorry for your loss too.

  4. This is so beautiful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.