"Harry Detwiler. 1998-2017. Rest in Peace, my beautiful son. I will love you forever." I saw this post by Isabella Detwiler on Facebook and that’s how I learned of Harry’s death.
I taught violin to Harry when he was eight to eleven years old. I haven’t seen him since then, and he recently died at age 19. We are accustomed to seeing the deaths of people older than we are, but the death of someone much younger is entirely different. This is especially true when the younger person died because of something other than natural causes, as was Harry’s case. I’ve heard that teachers live on in their students. What happens when the student is the first to go?
Harry was one of my very favorite students. I really loved that little boy, and he loved me, too. He was smart, very talented, imaginative, spontaneous, and very much his own person. He was inventive and surprising. I didn’t love him because of these traits. Love is not, or should not be, dependent on talents and accomplishments. These are simply traits that made him lovable to me.
Harry once told me, "One of the reasons I love playing the violin is that it’s something I can do well even though I’m a kid." He certainly did play well. Sometimes he would show me a piece he had been practicing and say, "I don’t like the way this piece ends." I’d answer, "OK. Write your own ending," and he’d do it right on the spot. He always did it well. I’d use his creation to teach him some of the basics of music structure and composition. One day his father, who played guitar, joined us for a lesson and the three of us played together. His father and I, both Beatles fans, played a lot of Beatles songs and talked about them. At his next lesson, Harry marched over to my music stand, picked up my Beatles songbook, flipped through it found what he wanted, and told me, "I want to learn to play this one." It was Yesterday. This is one of the first Beatles songs I usually teach to my students. It is relatively easy, for a Beatles song, and very pretty. Harry picked it up quickly and did it justice. Over all he was a joy to teach.
Harry was last seen in May of this year. In late November a dog walker found a collection of human bones in a shallow grave about 15 miles from Harry’s home. The police examined the bones and concluded that they were Harry’s. I shudder to think of how Harry was abused before he died.
I really don’t know how to deal with my emotions regarding Harry and his death. The obvious thing to do would be to play my violin, but I recently injured my left arm, and it will be weeks before I can play again. I have been lighting candles for him and now I’m writing this.
Good night, sweet prince. May hosts of angels sing you to sleep.
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