Asanté and Korin…Taken Too Soon
I’ve put off writing this post for over a month because I didn’t know how I wanted to start. I still don’t. I was hoping to find the perfect words. But rather than wait any longer, I decided to write, perfect words or not.
I have mentioned in the past that I am a teacher at Smoky Hill High School. Several months before graduation, Smoky lost one of our senior students, Asanté Ray. “Tay” was killed in a car accident April 2, 2016, only 18-years-old. Tay was driving his car and made the decision to pass an SUV, causing a head-on collision. Although I did not personally know Tay, many students and adults in the build did, including my best friend and Tay’s dean, Sarah Watts. He was a member of the Diversity Leadership Team and gave motivational speeches to students and teachers. Tay had the potential to be someone great. He was very well liked by his peers as well as his teachers and his death was difficult for the Smoky Hill community.
Tay’s passing affected my friend Sarah enormously. She worked very closely with Tay and his family and throughout his high school career. She often spoke to me about what an amazing young man he was and how much he meant to her. A few days after the accident, Sarah mentioned that she would like to have a portrait of Tay. That evening I went home and started drawing.
As many of you know, and as I shared in a earlier post, my step-daughter, Korin, was killed several years ago. She was 18-years-old, months away from her 19th birthday, and the mother of a 9-month-old daughter. Korin made a decision on the night of her death that put her in dangerous situation. Had she, as well as Tay, made a different choice, they might be here today.
During the month that it took me to complete Tay’s portrait, I did a lot of reflecting on Korin and Tay and how their deaths changed the lives of their loved ones forever. I know my experience does not compare to that of Tay’s mother’s as I cannot imagine how much more difficult it is to lose a child to whom you gave birth. I do, however, feel that my husband must have experienced something very similar to what she might have experienced. And in a way, that is just as heartbreaking.
I was very nervous to draw Tay. I was working from a photo that was taken from his Facebook page and texted to me. Not knowing Tay and not being able to see the details of his hair in the photo, I had to do some guessing which was difficult.
Knowing that his mom would be seeing the finished product, I was very worried about her reaction. Each minute that I spent drawing Tay, I also spent thinking about the death of Korin. I hoped that seeing his picture would not reopen wounds that had started to heal but I kept thinking…if someone drew a picture of Korin, our reaction would be positive. Hopefully hers would be as well.
The Take Away
What did I take away from this experience? A simple reminder that life is SO precious and can be SO short. As for Korin…I have great memories. I also have regrets. I would love the opportunity to go back and do some things differently. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. We cannot afford to put off something that should be said or done today. I have changed my mindset and the way I see life.
“The trouble is, you think you have time.”—Buddha
Having studied Tay’s face for countless hours, a part of me feel as if I know him…only I really didn’t. I’m honored to have drawn his portrait. I’m relieved that his mother wasn’t upset by the picture. I wish I could have met him. I think about Tay’s mom often. I have a connection to her that she may never know. I don’t even know how to articulate it, but it exists. Maybe the best way to describe it would be using Tay’s saying, “I felt it.” I imagine she is still in so much pain but I hope that each day brings her a little closer to peace and I know that if things can get better for us, they will for her too. Our children are in a better place and it is only those they leave behind that suffer.
Asanté Iseal Ray Korin Lijah Williams
February 26, 1998 – April 2, 2016 May 23, 1995-February 1, 2014
I would like to say thank you to Sarah Watts for honoring Tay’s life in such a beautiful way and thank you to his mother, Shondra Ray for allowing me to share this story.