Sometimes I feel like I met Trent Thompson the day he died. That sounds a bit crazy, I know… But let me tell you the story:
April 24th, 2003-
At 21 years old, I was just coming home from a semester at school in Orem, Utah. It had been a long and difficult few months, due to a lot of health challenges that had begun to sneak into my life. I remember landing at the Fresno airport, never being so excited to see the flat Valley grounds of home.
However, as I tiredly walked in through the garage door with my suitcase, into the living room, the newscast coming from the TV quickly caught my attention. A young man who had attended my rival high school just across town….. a star athlete, and a very wonderful Latter-Day Saint, had just been killed instantly in a car accident. I watched the newscast and immediately my heart sank for his family. He was obviously a person loved and admired by so many people.
I couldn’t get this boy’s story out of my head, so I kept checking the paper for his obituary. When it came, I felt that I should attend his funeral, and take my little brother Hank with me. Trent played basketball at Clovis West, and Hank was playing for Clovis East at the time. A few days later, we headed over to the funeral. I have never seen a church building so packed as it was that day. The speakers, the songs, and all the tributes to him touched my heart. I knew Trent was an incredibly special young man, someone who, even though he was popular and a star in so many ways, still reached out to those who were less fortunate, and was still a friend to just about everyone he met. The Thompson family received many letters after Trent’s death from students they didn’t even know knew their son.
I left the service hoping that some day, I would get to meet the Thompson family, and tell them “thank you” for all that I had learned. I also remember going home and putting the program from the funeral in a keepsake box. I looked at the picture of Trent and thought, “You’re gonna help me out…” Maybe that’s when he became one of my guardian angels. 🙂
Fast forward about 4 years, and my friend Sarah invited me to a BBQ with her ward friends. The party was held at the Thompson’s house. I took a break from all of the commotion and fun going on outside, and stepped inside their home. They had a wall full of pictures of Trent, trophies from his basketball days, and photos of him and his older brother, Trevor. His mom, Kathi, saw me snooping around and came in and talked to me. She said, “oh, this is our son Trent, who passed away a few years ago.” I said…”Yes, I know. I was actually at his funeral,” and a surprised look came on her face. I started telling her about why I went to the service, and how I had felt being there. We became instant friends. She and I ended up talking for a long time, and she gave me a book she had started writing about many of the experiences she and her husband, Curtis, had had since Trent’s death.
In the following years, I graduated and started sub-teaching around town, just like Kathi was doing at the time. With her help, I got to share many of Trent’s stories with my classes. One of my favorite things was giving out “CASH cards” to the students. These represented something that Trent had kept in his wallet. (Always use “C.A.S.H. — Compliment, Ask Questions, Smile, and say Hi”). Stories of him had become part of the district’s “Character Counts” program. Curtis and Kathi spoke at all the local high schools, sharing stories from Trent’s life, letters from fellow classmates, friends, and even rival basketball players and coaches. What they shared helped these students realize another one of Trent’s mottos: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
I’ve had many special moments with Trent’s family, and many not-so-coincidental experiences that are too sacred to me to share. But through all of this, I know that in fact, he was called to an important mission –and part of that mission was passing to the other side. He is gone – but will never be forgotten by those who knew and loved him, and even by those who didn’t know him then – but know him now. The Thompson’s recently published this book about Trent, which is available on Amazon. Please check it out if you get a chance. You will be touched by the experiences that happened before and after his death. It’s a testimony to me that death is not the end. I know the Thompsons will be reunited with Trent again.
I wrote my arrangement of “Lead Kindly Light” with “I Need Thee Every Hour” for the Thompson family in 2005. The words of those two hymns really struck me, as I felt the Thompsons were being lead one step at a time through this most difficult trial. I know they still suffer with loss and will until they see him again. But they have turned something tragic into something beautiful. I admire them so much for that!
My favorite verse of “Lead, Kindly Light”….
“So long thy pow’r hath blessed me, sure it still, will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till…. the night is gone.
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost a while….”
Check out http://trentbthompson.com/ ❤