I knew it was coming. Senior Night. A few months ago the schedule for the marching band season was released and there it was. It was supposed to be tonight but due to a miserable forecast for tonight it was moved to last night (thankfully!).
This is one of those milestones I had been dreading. Much like other milestones it is something that happens for his friends, but not for him. It is so hard to want to feel happy for those friends but at the same time sad and angry that he didn’t get a chance to be a senior.
So last night I knew they would mention him, but it was my choice whether or not I wanted to go on the field with the other seniors and their parents. I chose to sit in the stands. Before the game Mr. Nash gave Gabe’s dad and I the same flower given to the other seniors (hello, tears!) and we waited. After everyone was lined up they began and this is how Gabe was recognized:
Gabe Chester. . . .
Tonight we honor Gabe. This would have been the start of his senior year, but Gabe was taken from us in his freshman year. Gabe gave all of himself in everything he did and was a great friend to everyone he knew. Gabe was a member of the Marching Knights’ pit percussion section and was also involved in the Boy Scouts, theater production and loved to skateboard around Dayton. He is truly missed.
It was sad and as perfect as anything can be in that situation. I was glad I didn’t go down onto the field. It would have been far more painful to stand there without my child in front of me as everyone else was recognized, their future plans announced along with their names.
This is the start of some very difficult things. Soon it will be graduation, and then his friends will go to college. Then the rest of life will continue on for them. Those things will be so painful. But as with everything else we will muddle through and somehow survive.
Today I placed his carnation on his headstone. So very different than the future I wanted for him, but I’m still thankful for those 15 years and the impact he made.
Band. Marching band, concert band. Percussion. Those things were so important to Gabe. He started out on the clarinet in 8th grade, but thankfully was allowed to switch to percussion. He just didn’t enjoy clarinet. He LOVED percussion.
When he started high school he joined the Marching Knights, and did percussion in the pit. I remember the first home football game I went to, and when the band started walking down to the field the person behind me said “Oh great, it’s the band”. He was very exasperated and it was really quite sad to hear. There was so much I wanted to say to him, but I realized that he probably wouldn’t listen anyway. So I’m going to say it now.
Band is important. Band was one of the most important parts of Gabe’s life. School was difficult for him, I know he was picked on some, and he lived with the burden of a life threatening heart defect. Those things are huge hurdles for a teenager. Band gave Gabe something that he loved. Because of his heart defect he could not do contact sports. That ruled out several high school sports, as many sports are contact. Band gave him a team that he could participate in. It gave him an activity at school that he could do. He could put his all into something and be a part of something wonderful. I know there are others who were in similar shoes- health conditions limited certain things, so they found themselves in the band. Even within the band Gabe had to work with his limitations, so he was in the pit which was less strenuous but just as important as everything else.
So to that man sitting behind me (who will probably never read this), or to anyone who gets irritated at the football games when the band comes out- please respect those students. Respect that sports are not their thing and that is ok. Respect that some do sports AND band. Respect that some of them would love to do sports but can’t. Respect that they put so much work into their performances. Weeks during the summer, rehearsals just about every day after school, and they sacrifice Saturdays for all day long competitions. To you the band may not be important, but to some of those kids band is their life.
The video above is an original piece written by Rob Nash, Gabe’s beloved band director. It is a mix of things important to Gabe, which Mr. Nash explains at the beginning. It begins with Me Without You, by TobyMac. Thanks for reading and listeni