Goodbye Friend

Written By: Kim - Nov• 13•11

This weekend, we said goodbye to a good friend of my son’s. Between the viewing and the funeral, I am not sure who was more of a wreck; me or my son. We stayed at the viewing for about three hours. The teen friends who attended the viewing were simply amazing. They cried, but they consoled each other. When a new wave of teens arrived, the ones who had already been to see Connor Albright embraced them and led them through the steps. It was leadership and humanity at its best.

Connor Bingham Albright, 08/28/97 - 11/07/11

The morning of the funeral, I found myself amazingly composed. I managed not to turn in to a water faucet until they shut the lid of Connor Albright’s coffin. The complete sense of closure and goodbye overwhelmed me. I haven’t cried that hard since I buried a friend’s son in 2006 or my Mom in 2002. As a mother, this sight broke my heart.

The church’s pastors and the Air Force chaplain were amazing. They remained composed and comforted us with their words. It always amazes me that during times of mourning our clergy comfort us so. I always find the strength to continue forward. They reminded us that mourning is ok. It is part of the grieving process. They reminded us that Connor’s soul is on the other side and that it should be our goal to embrace Jesus to make sure we are reunited with him one day.

The family’s grief counselor asked all of Connor’s friends to stand. She spoke to them words of encouragement and consolation. She told them that Connor took great joy in his friendship with them and that they should never forget that. She reminded them that is was ok to continue to speak about him and talk to his family about their memories of Connor. 

She also told the teens that in the darkest hours of the night when the family awoke in grief, it comforted them tremendously to see Connor’s friends commenting on his Facebook page.

Connor’s brother said his account received over 300 friend requests when news of his death broke. He accepted them all because his family wanted to stay in touch with the kids so they would know what was going on. Social media served us well during a crisis.

The counselor then went on to read the most amazing letter from Connor’s family. They spoke to the community: the teachers, grief counselors, friends and finally, directly to Connor. As she laid her hand on Connor’s coffin and read the closing part of the letter, the family told Connor they were not mad at him. That they understood that sometimes the adolescent brain does not connect the permanency of death with actions. They told him is baby brother, to be born in January 2012, will know him just as they do. It was the second time that morning that I cried so hard my shoulders shook. None of us ever wish to write words of condolence, but the family’s eloquence and simple heartfelt message to the community and their son during their time of unimaginable sorry was just beautiful.

It was clear that the teen friends of Connor Albright needed this closure. As I was viewing the Facebook stream yesterday afternoon, the children commented that the finally thought everything would be all right. The sun will come out tomorrow and thank you Connor Albright for reminding us of that.

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2 comments
KimHoward
KimHoward moderator

Oh Jenni, I am so glad they helped. As a writer, it's often easier for me to write it than to say it. I am also very sorry that we were not able to meet before last week. More than the words from the pastors and chaplain, your family's letter completely floored me - in a good way. Your son touched so many lives in a positive way. It's the legacy we all want to leave behind. I knew that the service was exactly how a funeral should be when his friends on Facebook started writing that now they thought everything might be ok.

Baylor2003
Baylor2003

Kim, I found this when googling Connor's name. It's been a long day as we just laid Connor to rest at Quantico this morning. Your words made me feel good...real good. Thank you.

Jenni Barlet