My cousin, Ryan, died on August 5th, 2014. It was his ninth birthday. His grandma was driving him and his brother, Matthew, to pick up a present, but someone decided looking at their phone was more important than looking at the road. I’m not sure if I’ll ever forgive them. I’m not sure if they deserve it. One second. That’s all it took. One second of distracted driving. That seems so miniscule, but that second changed so much. What would have happened if the driver had decided to pay attention to the road? One day, Ryan, Matthew, their dad, my mom, and I were sitting on my grandma’s dock. We caught a lot of fish, mostly bluegills and perch, nothing like the Walter my dad always talked about; we were simply having fun. Ryan was strangely fascinated with the fish, so fascinated even that he started to dissect it. Again, weird (and kind of concerning), but he was eight, so can you really blame his curiosity? He was tearing into that fish, and I mean tearing into it- scales littered the weathered boards of the rickety dock and blood was all over his chubby little fingers. Luckily, it was already dead, otherwise Ryan’s dissection would have been bordering on torture. We all started giggling at the absurdity of Ryan’s determination to see how that one fish worked. My mom looked at him and said, “Maybe he’ll grow up to be a doctor,” and Ryan’s dad laughed, saying, “Or a butcher.” Now we’ll never know what Ryan will grow up to be. Ryan’s funeral took place about a week after his death. His little face was covered in makeup, but I could still see the bruises that mottled his face. I struggled to hold in my tears as I waited in line to hug his parents, but the tears were determined that day. A sob escaped me when I finally got to hug them. While walking past Matthew, I noticed his ankle was in a cast. He also had some bruises, but he got out relatively unscathed. He seemed a little out of it. I’m not sure if he remembers funeral. I remember thinking why. Why did Ryan die? Because someone had to look at their phone while driving? Why was the phone more important than staying safe? I wonder how many families ask that same question. Probably too many.
My cousin, Ryan, died in a car crash on the day he turned nine years old. The other driver was looking at his phone when it happened. At first, it seemed like Ryan would make it through. Later, he died due to internal bleeding. I think about Ryan from time to time; what would he have been like, if he had the opportunity to grow up?