By Alvin Richardson Sports Writer
The death of Morgan County High School’s Seth Stapleton was a lightning bolt of cold reality to all who knew and loved him. He was, by all accounts, a beloved member of the student body, a leader on the football team, a trusted friend to his buddies and a salt of the earth guy. That he died at such a tender age serves as a poignant reminder of how precious and fleeting life can be. It also serves as an instrument to help us all to more fully appreciate what’s really important in our day to day walk through life. We are all guilty of getting caught up in the trappings of job anxiety, social standing, which college our kids will get into or even who won the football game when the real stuff of life is being able to have family and friends whom we love and who love us.
The real stuff of life is being able to use those simple words, “I love you” on a regular basis and feeling that emotion in return. Without those feelings life is an empty, hollow shell. But today we can’t help but cry out and ask the age old, elusive question: why? Perhaps we should just go ahead and decide that the death of this young man will absolutely not be in vain. Perhaps we can use it to bring us as a school, as a community and as individuals closer together and nearer to the realization that all that other “stuff” is not nearly as critical as we might think. In fact it looks as though that is beginning to happen already. At the candlelight vigil in Seth’s honor on Sunday night there was an outpouring of love and support. Hundreds gathered on the field at the football stadium and rallied to the side of the Stapleton family.
This is what we do in Morgan County. If our neighbor is hurting and in need we hurry to their side doing any and everything possible to let them know that they don’t have to stand alone in their grief or time of trouble. That emotional assembly at the vigil included people of all ages and from all walks of life. It included several of the football teams against whom Seth and his teammates had done battle this season. All were there to say one thing to Ray to Angela and to Drew – We love you and you are not alone. It was a moving experience and one that I’m sure gave the Stapleton family some much needed strength. It made me proud to live in Morgan County. As we move forward from this tragic moment in time the most essential question will be whether or not we really learned from it. Will we go back to our customary approach to life and continue to sweat all the small stuff or will we recognize what is truly essential to happiness and to a cohesive community. Will we persist in spitefulness, ill will and unkindness when things don’t go our way or will we remember to treat our fellow man the way we would like to be treated and to love one another – in every case and not just when it is convenient.
I hope we can use Seth’s untimely death as a constant reminder of what he was and what he stood for and become a school, a community and individuals who live that way on a constant basis. This past Sunday night at the candlelight vigil the scoreboard was lit up with Seth’s number “71” and the scoreboard clock read 0:00. I yearn that those triple zeroes would symbolize the beginning of a new game rather than the end of one and that it would represent a new way to love and to cherish our friends, families and neighbors. I’m pretty sure that would be what Seth would want and if it turns out that way then his death would not be in vain but would rather be a glorious victory we could all share in. That too would be a memory we would cherish.