On the day he died, Tony Borcia was just ten years old.
The youngest boy in a family of four kids, he was having fun, tubing on Petite Lake near Lake Villa, Illinois, pulled by a boat with his dad and siblings aboard. He had fallen off the tube and was floating in the water with his life vest on, when another boater slammed into him and killed him. That boater was later charged criminally after testing revealed the presence of alcohol and cocaine in his system.
But I’m not here to write about that accident, because I’d rather tell you how moved I was by this beautiful letter from Tony’s father James, who rightly wanted people to know Tony in life rather than death. What he liked, who he was, how caring he was. It’s well worth your time.
These stories always hit me very, very hard. I suspect that, for Tony’s family and friends, the fact that he is gone now, a vibrant, energetic child filled with life and the promise of unlimited tomorrows, is all that really matters. The circumstances of his death pale in comparison to the sheer emptiness that is left behind, and I cannot even begin to imagine the magnitude of grief for Tony’s parents and siblings in this situation, but then I doubt there are many who can. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and we like to avoid thinking about such things.
So enough about that. Like his father said, let’s focus instead on Tony’s life. He would have entered fifth grade this fall, just like my own 10-year-old son Jordan (also my youngest son). He played basketball, he loved school and his teachers, he played in the school band. He was compassionate and concerned about other people’s feelings, and regularly took action to reflect that. All of that, just like my boy Jordan. To a “T”. And on top of that, we go tubing every summer, up on Gull Lake in Minnesota, with family driving the boat. So this hits just a little too close to home for me.
Kids everywhere do what kids do every day, and we rarely stop to think about the power and influence they have on our lives. Then something awful happens, somewhere — to somebody we don’t know if we’re lucky, or to somebody we do know if we’re not — and the immediacy of what life is all about is pressed upon us in vivid relief. Then we compartmentalize it, and move along, and go back to taking them for granted. We say “I love you” and do kisses and hugs, but is that really enough? Shouldn’t we spend more than 15 seconds every day showing others, and ourselves, just how important they are? Of course we should, and we all know it, yet we rarely do it.
Life is so precious, but we forget that too easily and too often. I know I do. I try so hard to keep perspective, but I get bogged down in details of life and my own imperfections and fall right back into old habits. This does not feel very good, as you might imagine.
Mere words seem so feeble in times like these, but I’d like the Borcia family to know that I send my condolences, and that I’m very, very sorry for their loss.
But from now on I’m going to try, like James Borcia says, to focus on how my loved ones live, every day.
It’s all we’ve really got, when you think about it.