My phone buzzed under my pillow. 9:43 a.m. It read “Coach Kelly.” It buzzed three times, I answered it.“Hey coach.”
“Hey, did I wake you up?”
“No, I was already up,” I said with a chuckle.
He returned the laugh. “Okay, good.”
“Well, Tyler Rathbun was in an ATV accident last night.” He composed himself.
“He didn’t make it. He is dead.” He said choking a bit.
Deep heavy breaths. It was a feeling I’ve never felt before. My world has just been turned upside down. I didn’t know what to do.
“Okay,” I said. It’s all I could think of.
“We are going to meet up as a team sometime today.”
“Okay,” I said. It’s all I could think of.
“Hang in there. I will see you later today.”
“Okay, thanks coach,” I said, my voice cracking.I walked downstairs. My body shook violently, and I could hardly stand up.
“Are you okay?” My dad asked.
My head shook.
“What’s wrong?”
He sprinted over to me.
“Tyler died.” I buried my face in his shoulder.One of my brothers was dead.

I bawled into my dad’s arms for about five minutes. I sat down, hands in my face, still crying. Still in shock. I honestly didn’t know what is going on. How did it happen? Who was he with? Is everyone else okay?

I got a call from Bryce McClanahan. Another team captain.
“Have you heard?” He said.
“Yes. Kelly called me.”
“If you need to talk, if you need anything, I’m here.”

I had to call our team manager, Jackson Dalton. I left two messages to call me as soon as possible, knowing he was most likely asleep. I got a call back at 12:14 p.m.

“Hey, what’s up?” Jackson said.
“Look–”
I gulped.
“I need to tell you something.”
“Tyler– Rathbun was in an ATV accident last night.”
“Tyler’s dead.”
I heard a gasp, then a soft sob.

One of our brothers was dead.

At 1 p.m., Jackson and I met the team at Clint Dunn’s house. By 2 p.m., there were over 80 people there, mourning. I knew all of them. Every single one. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors. Tears and laughter. That’s all I heard.

For a short time, I reminisced on the good times. There are too many to count. But most of the time I just cried.

On Monday, I went to one class. I walked into English, and I lost it. I saw his empty seat. I will never forget that moment. I couldn’t control my emotions. He was never going to sit there again. The rest of the day, I was with the team. At times we laughed. At points we cried. At points we stared off into space, not saying a word. Sometimes we would laugh, then get choked up.

While I managed to get through that day, I still kept asking one question over and over again. Why? I just didn’t understand. Why did it happen? Why was it Ty? Why did he have to die?

The rest of the week, I held in more tears than I should have. And I cried more that week than I ever have. Friday, the day of the funeral, was a day full of deep breaths. It was a day to celebrate the life of someone I loved. Once the service was completed, the soccer team followed Tyler’s family out of the church. Each step was exhausting. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want it to be my final goodbye.

In those five days, I grew up. I was forced to. From the Sunday he died to the Friday of his funeral, I wasn’t the same me anymore. The way I looked at life was different. I had to accept the facts, and figure out how to move on.

I realized there was no reason why it happened. It just did. It wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t God’s will, or anyone else’s. Things like this just happen. And there is no reason for them.

The toughest reality of all is that I’m not going to see him again. He’s gone. I wish he wasn’t, but he is. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. Not being able to see his face, his smile. But he wouldn’t want me to be sad. He wouldn’t want me to dwell. He was always so happy. I’m never going to stop missing him, and I’m never going to stop loving him. But no matter what, he will always be with me.

RIPTR. Love you, Ty.