Terrence Clarke’s tragic death reminds us to cherish every day
By John Herndon, 110forChrist.com
Like most basketball fans in Kentucky, I was stunned when the news broke last Thursday that Terrence Clarke had died in an automobile accident in Los Angeles.
Kids aren’t supposed to die at 19 years old. We want to believe that, whether he’s a high-profile basketball star like Terrence Clarke or the shy kid who plays chess or excels in math competitions.
When someone is still in his teens, he should have a long life waiting. At least that’s how it’s supposed to be.
But even though we don’t like to acknowledge the fact, life doesn’t always work that way.
And when it hits close to home, it stings. There’s a pain that we can’t describe but we know it’s there. Most of us didn’t know Terrence Clarke but it just seemed like we did.
Even though a leg injury limited Terrence Clarke to 10 games for the Wildcats before he opted for the NBA Draft, he was still one of us. We might debate the wisdom of the one-and-done model but we can’t and won’t begrudge a young man who takes advantage of an opportunity 99.99 percent of us could only see in our dreams.
And because they suited up for the Blue and White, even for a brief time, we follow those young men, whether they decide to move on to another school or turn pro. It’s just one of the traits of the Big Blue Nation.
Terrence Clarke had made quite an impression even before arriving in Lexington. His hometown teams, the Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics, both remembered him at games.
I never met Terrence Clarke. I never interviewed him or was ever around him. I never knew much about him. In those early season games, I saw enormous talent and loads of enthusiasm. He was obviously young but showed promise of being one of those one-year wonders that have been the trademark of the John Calipari Era at Kentucky. Of course, an injury changed all that and we never got to see how good he could have been as a Wildcat.
What I do know is that Terrence Clark was a son. He was a brother. He was a friend. And, from all accounts, a great teammate and wonderful human being. That will be his legacy.
The older I got, stunning deaths that occurred in the prime of life began to give me more perspective on the old saying, “Life is short” or similar phrases.
I think of people from my generation. I think of Thurman Munson, the great Yankees’ catcher. I think of Hank Gathers, the Loyola Marymount star. Singer Jim Croce. Princess Diana. All in their 20s or 30s. All taken so suddenly.
More recently, we read of pitchers Jose Fernandez and Tyler Skaggs. Or former Syracuse basketball player Fab Melo. All gone in their 20s.
You always ask, “Why?”
And, for me, at least, there is a sobering reminder that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. During my time working in the newspaper business, I wrote about a handful of local kids who lost their lives far too young, whether in high school or not long afterward. Those tragedies spanned several sports.
Their families grieved. Their friends and teammates grieved.
I was also tasked with covering games when the opposing team had experienced the same tragedy, or, as in a case I well remember, saw the young person survive an accident only to be paralyzed for life.
Again, the families grieved. Their teammates and friends grieved.
And as we grieve, we not only lament our losses, but are faced with our own mortality and a realization it could happen to us.
I waited to post this commentary just to collect my own thoughts, let them percolate in my mind a while and then compose something meaningful. I really don’t add anything new to the discussion, and in many ways, that’s good.
It’s another reminder that we are guaranteed nothing in this world. And when confronted with that reality, we can appreciate every precious day and live them for God.
As a college student, that reality hit home when a friend I often played pickup basketball with died when returning to campus one weekend. Now, I am much older. I’m retired but don’t feel old. Yet, several times every year, I hear of a member of my high school class passing away or battling a devastating disease and fighting for his life.
They are more reminders that nothing in life is guaranteed, including that very life! My prayer is each person live every second to glorify God.