A Day in the Country
In Memory of Zach
© Another Day in the Country
That unexpected call telling you that your child was in an automobile accident is the most dreaded. Nothing can prepare you for that moment. Then to hear that your child has died jars your very soul.
Zachariah J. Antoszyk, son of John Antoszyk (Marion) and Kim Bell (Herington), died in a car accident two weeks ago and many are reverberating with the ramifications of this loss. He died two days after his 22nd birthday.
Probably every parent in Marion County, reading the report on the front page of the Marion County Record asked themselves, “What happened?” “How do we keep our kids safe?” There’s so much out there that threatens life! We read about it every day in the headlines.
Antoszyk came from a blended family. Just his next of kin could fill most chapels in our area, so the celebration of life service was held at the Herington Community Center. Hundreds of people were there, the majority of them young: schoolmates, friends of his siblings, serious-faced farm boys in jeans, nervously twisting their caps, young girls with puffy eyes and running mascara. It’s a frightening thing to contemplate death at any age, let alone when you are so young and relatively inexperienced with tragedy. “Life’s still ahead of us,” they’d thought. “We’ve got lots of time to make important decisions.” Then overnight, someone they’d known, their age, was gone.
What do we do at times like these? We come together as a community and we bring our presence, our concern, our love, to uphold a family who’ve raised their children in our neighborhood.
The formal service was led by Deb Wiles, pastor of the Rock Island Church in Herington. “Wow,” she said at the beginning, taking in all the filled seats, looking all the way to the back of the long room, “There are a lot of friends and family here. Thank you all for coming.” I think Zach would have been pleased to have his former teacher leading out and I think he would have been surprised by all the people his brief life had touched and who now sat silent in this place contemplating the unknown.
It is good to have extended family during times like these. Zach’s sisters, step-sisters, friend’s sisters, read some poetry in his honor; their voices breaking with emotion. His brother Thieen paid tribute to their family bond, it’s preciousness, it’s strength. While faltering in the beginning to find words, four boys found their father suddenly behind them with his reassuring hand on their shoulder, giving them that added shoring up so they could carry on, speak for their brother in his absence; speak loud enough so we could hear, speak long enough that we could smile remembering this brash and grinning boyish guy whose truck was no match for a semi running amok at three in the morning.
“He wouldn’t want us to be sad,” said his brother Canh. And so we listened to the stories of Zach who, as a kid, almost got pulled into the lake by a fish that was as long as he was tall, about his body building, power lifting, breaking things — including his arm during a football game. We chuckled about him getting stuck in his truck, rough-housing with his siblings, his insatiable appetite, that ready grin, his not reading assembly instructions, his determination to win and how he laced his boots with welding wire.
“We had our ups and down,” wrote his brother Stephen, on his Facebook page, “but it made us stronger.”
Zach’s dad stood outside by the door, attempting to absorb it all as folk left the service. Many stopped to speak. We all feel so inadequate to comfort a parent’s grieving. “I’m sorry,” one said. “I’m so sorry, Buddy,” said another. “I’m sorry, too,” came his weary reply. “I’m sorry, too.”
Zach’s ashes were buried at Lewis Cemetery, on the edge of Ramona, right beside his friend James Weber who died four years ago in another tragic accident. There has been a Zach Antoszyk Memorial Scholarship established at Manhattan Area Technical College.
Benefits? There is a benefit, for me, at times like these: to be reminded of the preciousness of life. Your life, my life, an old life, a young life, short or long. We, who are reading, still have that spark — use it well. Especially today, in memory of Zach.