One Sunday in April, 2002, Tressa Hamby received a call from a state trooper informing her of her son’s death. Patrick, her 19-year-old middle son, was driving back from a rock-and-roll concert in Georgia when his car slid off the road.
Mrs. Hamby, an assistant to the Director of Development, said, “There’s not a day that goes by that he’s not in my life.”
Many people don’t emotionally survive the grief that comes with the loss of a child. Statistically, many marriages fall apart after the death of a child. Mrs. Hamby did not want her family to become stuck in the tragedy, and said, “I was responsible for my husband and for my other boys.” Mrs. Hamby took time off of work and said that she, “made it my job that we were just together, that we stayed together.” “Patrick loved his family, and we were going to stick together come hell or high water.”
The Hamby family and several of Patrick’s friends started a scholarship fund at Douglas Freeman High School in memory of Patrick who had an ability to connect with and share his kindness and care for all kinds of people. It is awarded annually to a Freeman senior not for academic or athletic accomplishment but for being a kind and good person and role modeling that kindness in his or her community.
The most helpful advice she received during this grieving process was from her lifelong best friend. She said to Mrs. Hamby, “You will come to learn how to live with Patrick in a different way.”
In the time after Patrick’s death she was concerned that Patrick had not come to her in dreams as he had to his brothers and his dad and she talked to a counselor about that concern. She was advised that grief has no timetable; to be confident that once she allowed herself to grieve rather than focusing all her energies on the wellbeing of everyone else, Patrick’s presence would be realized. Sometime later, she recalled a dream being with all three of her sons at the Regency Movie Theatre. She went to the boys waiting in line, and is told by Patrick, “You have three boys, you will always have three boys and I will always be here with you.” To this day, Mrs. Hamby is very confident of Patrick’s presence in her life and knows he watches over her.
What can we learn from such tragedy? Mrs. Hamby said that in the face of death, we boys should “not be afraid, not be timid and not be shy to ask if there's something you can do.” It is critical for us to have an emotional self, and part of that is becoming comfortable and experienced in times of loss. She added that teenagers should know that they aren’t bulletproof; we need to use good sense and be smart and cautious about our actions.
Finally, Mrs. Hamby talked about the importance of telling people that you care.
“Tell the people who love you that you love them back,” she said. “Try not to put that off; if it doesn’t come naturally, practice saying it. It’s important to let the people who love you know that you love them too.”