Tony Rotuno, Lindsay Rotuno's father (left), comforted by
Coaches, Campuses and Community... in times of grief
Three of the four C's that are at the heart of the ministry of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes are playing a vital role in the aftermath of the tragedy that has befallen one of Lorain County's 20 high schools. On May 21, 2017 Midview student, Lindsay Rotuno, was tragically killed in a car crash coming home from after-prom.
At 3:29 a.m. on Sunday morning I texted my son asking, "you guys on the way home?' Afterprom had ended at 3:00 a.m. and I thought they ought to be home by now. I didn't get an answer. I said a prayer and sat waiting in my chair by the window for the next 45 minutes. My concern subsided as I saw the headlights from the car turn on to our street. I was prepared to let them know how worried I was... but, as they walked through the door, I realized that something was obviously wrong.
The delay had been caused by their presence at the scene of the tragic accident that claimed the life of a dear classmate. A night that had been filled with beautiful memories changed in a moment and a group of "invincible" teens were very suddenly confronted with the reality that we live in a fallen world, where we will always have trouble... where we are not promised tomorrow.
I didn't sleep that evening, overwhelmed by the situation. I am so grateful that the Lord has called me to minister to coaches, athletes, students and their families... but this is just the most heartbreaking part of ministry. This would be the second time in six years that this class of 2018 would come together to grieve the loss of a precious classmate. My heart broke for the young lady's family... and for the young man who had been driving.
The driver of the car was treated and released from the hospital later that morning and as the sun rose and I was preparing to wake my family for church, I was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit that I needed to grab another one of his coaches and go visit him. He is a great young man who was a captain on the local football team. He cared deeply for the young lady that lost her life in the accident and would obviously be overwhelmed with all the crazy thoughts and emotions. His coach, the huddle leader of the team's FCA group, was ready at a moment's notice to join me.
There are no words in moments like this, but, as one of the local pastors related in an email later that week, sometimes the ministry of "presence" is all we need to offer. The coach and I called the home and asked permission to stop by and check on the family and pray for them. They obliged and minutes later we pulled in their driveway. Two big, burly football coaches reduced to tears and hugs.
The coaches and community would play a huge role in the first steps of the grieving process for the family of the young lady and all her friends. Another coach and school board member and his wife (also a coach), who was himself intimately acquainted with the pain of the moment, quickly began the process of organizing a community vigil to commemorate this beautiful young woman and show the family the level of support of this great community. It was his son that was the other member of the class of 2018 that I mentioned earlier.
Prior to my working as the area director for FCA in Lorain County I had the privilege of serving as the pastor for this school board member and standing with his family as they went through their loss. He graced me with the opportunity to once again address the family, the students, and community and try and help them navigate the grief and sorrow of their loss.