“Sometimes only one person is missing and the whole world seems depopulated.” – Alphonse De Lamartine
What a sad week it has been for not only Waxahachie but, as evidenced by the outpouring of compassion from folks seemingly everywhere, for the county, as well. By now you know that a beloved student at Waxahachie High School, Austin Elbert, lost his life as the result of a tragic auto accident last Monday. Handsome, talented, personable and in the sweet spot of his young life, Austin now walks the peaceful streets of heaven. We’ve had weeks like this before yet they never get easier.
And, they never will.
Still vivid in my mind are the moments when I learned of Missy Bevers’ murder, the accident that ultimately led to the death of my dear friend, Scott Dorsett, the senseless murder of little Ollie Wiedemann, and others too many to mention. Just the other day I stopped by the 8/47 Memorial on Main Street to take a look at some recent flag vandalism. Before leaving, I stood reading the names of 19 men who died in Waxahachie’s most deadly auto accident. The date was Aug. 5, 1947. Eighteen of those men were from Waxahachie and, like Austin, lost their lives as the result of a truck collision. It’s hard to imagine the painful grief our city experienced then given how much a week like this hurts today.
Thursday was Austin’s 18th birthday. In a display of honor and love for Austin on Thursday, folks from South Grand Prairie to Red Oak to Maypearl to Ennis to Waxahachie chose to wear green … including high school students and various athletic teams throughout North Texas. It was obvious how meaningful Austin’s friendship was, is, and will remain, to so many.
Green is not only the color of uniform Austin wore on the baseball field, it is also the symbolic color used by organ donor organizations across the country. In what is the most authentic act of love anyone can offer another, the gift of life, Austin had chosen to be an organ donor. It is because of such a desire that Austin’s organs were harvested and made available to others on Thursday, his birthday. Frankly, for me, it’s difficult to comprehend that kind of story. A young man gives life as he loses his life on the very day he was born into life 18 years earlier.
It is my hope, and certainly my guess, that Austin’s family feels the love shown them these past few days. It is in such a collective response that the essence of Waxahachie can be found. Truth is, I have believed in and felt that essence since the day I arrived. For those who have lived here most if not all of their life, that essence is one to which it is easy to become a bit numb, maybe even forgotten. I understand how that happens over time but all of us should be aware of just how extraordinary the people of Waxahachie are. The outpouring of compassion for Austin and his family, much like the outpouring of the same for the families of Missy Bevers, Scott and Johnna Dorsett, Ollie and John Wiedemann, and others over the years, speaks to the character of this city. It is exceptional.
This week, although compelled by a tragedy none of us would ever want to experience again, is an example of what America needs most. Sadly, the act of compassion has, in many ways, been reserved for tragedies like Austin’s rather than being a basic tenet of everyday life. The stark reality of just how compassion-free and evermore meaningless life has become as more streets fill with more hate is a reality we must strive to change. For some, change isn’t likely but for most, grasping the fragility of life and the urgent need to live more fully is real. Austin’s death and weeks like we just experienced make it more urgent. In grieving together, communities can begin to find that constant conflict and contempt are prices too high to pay in life, especially when compassion is left little room to spread.
Austin will never be forgotten, and neither should the reality of how fleeting life is on earth. As we remember Austin and pray for his family, may we also pray for the truck driver who simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He, too, now has a better understanding of life’s split-second changes and the need to live fully. Waxahachie is here for him, as well.
Yes, it’s been a rough, rough week. One none of us expected and certainly one none of us ever want to relive. Rather than allowing the sorrow to linger, though, may we instead use this tragedy as a means by which we offer greater compassion and a deeper love to our family, friends and neighbors.
Doing so will make the coming weeks a little better for everyone.
Scott Brooks is the Publisher of the Waxahachie Sun and may be reached at 972-316-7712 or email@example.com.