And the Band Played On…. (death of an only child)
by LaFreda Kilburn
The story of Scotty Brian Purcell 5/4/77 – 10/13/93
His Life was like a song he wrote in his own note and key.
Each life he touched reflects a note that forms the Melody.
He chose the theme and chorus of the song to bear his name,
And each one has a special sound, no two can be the same.
So from the world Scotty departs in memory we find,
His song plays on within the hearts of those he left behind.
~~ Mom 1993
On Wednesday, May 4, 1977 at 2:38 pm, a tiny 5lb 4oz, one month early baby boy couldn’t wait to make an entrance into this world. And he did. He proved to everyone, including a worried doctor, parents and grandparents, that he had a will to live and would make the most of it.
This tiny wonder did all the milestones early and was quite the charmer at the age of one. By the time he was walking and talking good, he was into everything; hating to take naps for he had so much to do in life.
Throughout the years, he was active, bright and very smart, but always looking to help others. Even after his death, he has helped so many with his giant oversized heart. He loved to sing and entertain and told of days when he would own a supper club and sing for everyone, and if we were nice, his Granny and I could get in free to see him.
He was active in all the church groups, school clubs and athletics and when he got old enough he was in the school band. You see, he was all boy, and played football in Junior High but broke his arm completely in two and could never play again. He was lost for awhile but band appeared. He seemed to find where he needed to be, making music. The next several years he mastered so many instruments, I don’t think he ever found one he couldn’t play. He carried this love of music into his High School years and was never so happy to get his letter jacket for band. He wore it even on hot days, he was so proud of it. He played in the regular band and jazz band. Their band was so talented they won state several years and were fixing to go to state in spring of 1994 and did win in honor of Scotty.
But outside of school, Scotty’s little group of friends had a “Rock Band”. They were so proud of their guitars, drums and keyboard. They practiced all the time and were planning a career in music. Scotty wrote many songs in his life which were eventually published after his death. Scotty was the cheerleader for his mass group of friends. When someone needed cheering up or needed someone to talk to about a problem, he was the man to see.
But one fateful day in October of 1993, that light that shone so bright went out at an unprotected railroad crossing right down from his lifetime home. His small Chevy pickup truck was no match for that giant steel engine and he was killed. His good friend escaped serious injury for the train hit on Scotty’s side. He died en route to the hospital. The entire small town where we live was devastated. All the mass of friends had lost the one person they needed the most to cheer them and care for their broken hearts… He was the one they were mourning. Everyone gathered to honor him. He was buried on a Friday afternoon and his beloved band honored him that night at the football game with the empty man formation, and wore black bands in mourning. A scholarship was established in his name to give to other band students through the years.
As for me, his Mom, my world came crashing down around me. On that day, I lost my son, my entire world, the reason I got up in the morning and went to work each day; my life ended that day too. He was my only child and I was left behind. Being a workaholic and a control freak, I immediately went into auto pilot mode and began trying to work myself to death. Needless to say, that wasn’t a possibility but I tried with everything I had in me. My shell of a person began working on rail safety and fighting to get gates and lights installed at the crossing where Scotty died. I worked many hours and traveled with the National Rail Safety Association to get the word out about the danger of unprotected crossings. Finally 12 years, 1 month and 2 days after Scotty’s death gates and lights were installed at that crossing.
The other things I did right during those years were to design my son’s memorial stone, complete with the poem you read at the top and the etching of a guitar. I also began working with a Bereaved Parents Support Group in the area. The group had been established in 1988 by a group of parents who had lost children. Shortly after the group was started, it was taken over by Howard Payne University and their Community Counseling Center.
In early 1994, the college closed the counseling center and reassigned the leader to a new position, which left the group without leadership or support. At that time, I began training to take over this group and took over as the leader and facilitator. The need for this group in our area was great for the children deaths were in large number. The group observes several activities to help with the grief journey. We host the Annual Balloon Liftoff in May at a local park writing love notes and tucking them inside our helium balloons and send them off to heaven. We host the Angel Memorial Trees in November in the local mall. We now have over 400 angel ornaments on our trees; some have pictures of children who have died, some are just names and dates. The trees remain up throughout the holiday season. We gather around them on the Second Sunday in December to host our Candlelight Memorial Service and Wave of Light so that we may spend one evening through Christmas with our angels. We also host a monthly meeting to offer positive ways to handle our grief and offer support and compassion.
Never really knowing where my life would lead, I surrendered it all over to God in my teenage years for mission service. After that, I always lead church groups, sang and taught Sunday School, but always felt I should do more. I simply never knew what sacrifice I would have to face to find my ministry in life. It took giving up my only son to find my place in God’s ministry. My son, Scotty, would expect no less of me, so that is what I give to honor his life and legacy. Now 19 years later, Scotty lives on in all the work I do to help others. Love never dies. It lives on forever!
“…his songs play on within the hearts of those he left behind.”
About the Author: LaFreda Kilburn was born and raised in the small town of Bangs, Texas and continues to reside there. She works contract jobs to have flexibility to pursue her son Scotty’s legacy. She leads the local Bereaved Parents Support group and other local civic jobs and attends the small country church she was born into many years ago. Her song returned 14 years after Scotty died and she now sings God’s praises again. Since Scotty’s death, she has married a wonderful supportive man and has since adopted 3 wonderful children and one treasured nephew and family. LaFreda writes under the close supervision of her office assistants (4 cats and a rabbit).