When you grow up in a small town, it’s sometimes tough to explain to the people you love why tragedies “back home” affect you the way they do. When I told my fiance that I’d received terrible news about someone from my hometown, his first question was about how close I was to the person who passed away. The answer was that I wasn’t close to him at all. But we were connected in many ways, and as a result, my heart is awfully heavy today.
I didn’t have to know him personally to hurt for his brother, who reached out to me when I moved from New York City to Small Town Missouri in 2009 and was a good friend to me. I didn’t have to be close with him to wonder how a family endures a tragedy of this proportion twice in a little over a decade.
So was I close friends with him? No. But because I grew up in a small town, I don’t have to know someone intimately to feel that their passing is a tragic loss to a community that – at one time – was the only community I knew. He didn’t have to be a close friend for me to realize the impact that he had on the lives of other people I’ve known and been close to at various times in my childhood and young adult life.
My thoughts and prayers go out to people from my hometown who are mourning today. Our paths may not have crossed in months or years, but they’re still part of my home town and my childhood, and I so wish that they didn’t have to hurt right now.