Chucky Thurman was our young neighbor from across the street and one of the first people we met when we moved into our home in Braithwaite in 2007. He had a friendly face with an extraordinarily bright and somewhat mischievous smile that often greeted us when we happened to cross paths.
Our son, P.J., had become instant friends with Chucky. Although they didn’t spend a lot of time together at first, it seemed like whenever P.J. was bored, he could always count on Chucky to hang out for a spell and lift his spirits. It wasn’t until several months ago that they became truly close friends. In fact, P.J. had begun referring to Chucky as his “best” friend. They hung out on our front porch, rode Chucky’s four-wheeler, watched movies together, and just enjoyed each other’s company while “chillin’.” My last interaction with Chucky was when he and P.J. were trying to convince Josh, our eleven year old, that he should let P.J. take him for a ride on the four-wheeler. I argued that there was no way I would allow it unless Josh had a helmet on. Chucky promptly ran across the street and returned, producing a helmet. We shared some laughs as we sat on the porch together and watched P.J. ride up and down showing Josh how “slow” he was going to go. He and I both knew that as soon as Josh got on that contraption, P.J. was going to ride like the wind. I was thankful when Josh finally thwarted the plan and ran inside, and I was so appreciative that Chucky graciously laughed and wasn’t upset at all that he’d wasted his time retrieving the helmet. It was just a short segment in the life of Chucky Thurman, but I was thankful to be a part of it because it gave me a glimpse of who he truly was.
Early on the morning of June 4, 2011, a tragic accident brought an end to Chucky’s life. P.J. was in the car with him at the time of the accident and was somehow spared, but his life will never be the same. In fact, many, many lives changed that day. Chucky’s parents, Chuck and Sandy, are now bearing the greatest cross ever bestowed on a parent – the loss of a child. His sister, Destiny, is much too young to be dealing with the death of a sibling. Many others, young and old, will ponder the question of “why” for years to come. I have always believed that when any person (young or old) dies, it is because at the moment they are faced with a life and death situation, God believes that they are ready to come to Him. Whether that is scripturally or theologically correct, I haven’t the foggiest idea, but I feel in my heart that God welcomed Chucky with open arms on the morning of June 4th. God knew he was ready.
While our grief doesn’t begin to compare with that of the Thurman family, this has been a very difficult time for us as we’ve tried to help P.J. get through each day. In spite of that, however, I will forever be thankful for the friendship that he and Chucky shared and the impact that Chucky made on P.J.’s life. I was absolutely amazed at how many young people showed up for all of the services held. It proved to me that what I had seen in Chucky, a goodness that was deep within him, was real. His time on earth was a short span of seventeen years, but a measure of time has no bearing on the impact one life can have on another. Chucky Thurman leaves behind a great legacy… one of compassion and camaraderie… one of friendship and fellowship… one of laughter and love. He will be overwhelmingly missed.