Mac Engel

Loss of Paschal baseball star forces awful question of why

Friends console one another at a vigil Thursday at Paschal High School for Drew Medford, who died in a one-car accident Thursday morning. Medford is a graduate of Paschal and was an incoming freshman at TCU where he planned to play baseball.
Friends console one another at a vigil Thursday at Paschal High School for Drew Medford, who died in a one-car accident Thursday morning. Medford is a graduate of Paschal and was an incoming freshman at TCU where he planned to play baseball.

The last thing Julia Medford wants to do right now is to eat or sleep.

“If I close my eyes I picture Drew walking through that door,” she said. “It’s hard to sleep or to take care of yourself when you have this much grief. It’s constant.”

Julia Medford was fine Wednesday evening when she and her younger brother, Drew, were playing fetch with her dog.

“He was so excited and ready to go to college and ready to start playing [baseball] at TCU,” she said. “He couldn’t wait for it to all start.”

Early Thursday morning, Julia received the type of phone call that we all eventually will receive, and absolutely no one wants — her brother was gone.

Drew Medford died in a one-car crash early Thursday morning. He was 18.

“I feel like a piece of my heart is gone, and I don’t know if I’ll get it back,” said Darrell Preston, Drew Medford’s Paschal baseball coach.

Loss is a part of life, but nothing challenges faith like death. Nothing challenges the expression, “Everything happens for a reason” like the death of someone so young. Nothing makes you ask, “Why?” and “What for?” like the loss of a Drew Medford.

There is no reason. There is no point. A terrible thing happened, and his mom, dad, brother, sisters and many loved ones are left to find the explanation for this tragedy.

“This is something you can’t prepare for,” Julia Medford said. “There is not a handbook. Not a document. Nothing written that tells you how to prepare for this.”

On Thursday afternoon, a few hours before the vigil that drew nearly 500 people at Paschal High School in Fort Worth, family and friends gathered at the Medford home to offer their prayers and their support.

Preston, TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle and so many others were there trying to find the words when there simply are none.

These are always awkward, but ultimately necessary, encounters.

“There is nothing people can do or say that can change what happened, but we are grateful for the friends we have who have been coming by and helping us,” Julia Medford said.

Before Schlossnagle visited the Medford family, he first addressed his team. The plan had originally been for the first team meeting Sunday, one day before the start of school, but after Schlossnagle heard the news he called for an emergency meeting Thursday morning.

He has handled thousands of team meetings before, but he did not exactly know how to handle this one. This is the first time Schlossnagle has had a current player die in his tenure as a college head coach.

“I didn’t want them to hear about this from anybody other than me,” Schlossnagle said. “It was a tough meeting, especially for the guys who were here since June and had gotten to know him. For one of our players, it was the third friend this year who died.

“Those are just tough conversations — what do you say? Just clichés, I guess — nobody is indestructible. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t walk away angry. Don’t leave things unsaid. It’s a short life.”

All of these people have had to ask themselves the unanswerable — why did this happen?

“I think if you are human, which we all are, we always question it,” Preston said. “You get a young kid with so much future ahead him and why? Through my faith, we are not going to know the reason right now.”

The pastors from nearby Christ Chapel made themselves immediately available, and they were the ones who led the vigil Thursday evening. Everybody at the vigil had something they wanted to say, or feel, about their friend. Their son. Their youngest brother.

How much he loved baseball. Of his humility — he didn’t celebrate when he was named All-State. But mostly people wanted to share in their genuine affection and love for Drew.

“We loved him like he was our own,” Preston said. “Whoever was around him, he would brighten up. He would make you feel better. I think we are all just grateful to have spent the time with him we did.”

Shortly after the vigil concluded, during which a rain storm blew through Fort Worth, a rainbow appeared in the distance. It was the rare complete rainbow with the colorful arch fully finished on perfect sides.

“It was a reminder Drew was with us,” Julia said. “I don’t know what baseball in heaven is like, but I know Drew is there kicking butt.”

For now, Julia Medford and her sisters Adrienne, Carly, brother Michael and parents Nancy and David all move forward at a fractional pace — day by day is reduced more to moment by moment.

At 2 p.m. Monday at Christ Chapel Bible Church there will be a memorial service for Drew followed by a reception. Life will go on, but it will be different. And eventually answers for this terrible tragedy will be found.

“Drew was the glue — he kept this family together,” Julia said. “It’s sad to say, but it’s a tragedy that brings you closer together. I know he finished, but he wasn’t done. Everything happened for a reason and he loved every single person. I don’t know what else was for him, but the way he finished his life I can look back and know that he lived the life he was supposed to live and did what he was supposed to do.”

That’s a pretty good life, even if it was far too short.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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