One of the toughest stories a reporter has to cover is the death of a child. At some point during the assignment, we have to call or visit the family for reaction. It’s never easy.
Each family handles media requests differently. Some appoint a family spokesperson—typically not one of the parents—to answer questions. But in some cases, mom and dad will meet with reporters to discuss the circumstances of the death. Perhaps it’s therapeutic for them to share some loving memories of their child.
Again, it’s not an easy assignment. I remember years ago sitting in the kitchen of a home in Addison talking to the parents of a girl who died in a car accident. Mom was able to answer some questions and share photos, but dad sat at her side barely able to contain himself. He held back tears and never said a word.
I wasn’t covering Oak Lawn when Megan Hurckes, the 10-year-old daughter of former village trustee Jerry Hurckes, died in an ATV accident. But offering condolences to Jerry and his wife at the wake was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. My daughter played softball with Megan. Her loss was tough on my family and much of the Oak Lawn community.
The day in 2012 that Hometown resident Kaylah Lentine, 14, died from injuries sustained after being hit by a car on Southwest Highway in Oak Lawn, I was at the site of the accident talking to people who were adding flowers to a makeshift memorial.
I spotted a woman walking down Cicero Avenue who turned out to be Lentine’s mom, Krista Wilkinson. She visited the memorial to thank everyone for their gestures of support. I was shocked to see her so soon after he daughter’s death. But she had the courage to walk to the memorial across the street from where her Kaylah was hit just to thank people. Impressive.
These recollections came to mind because Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day that most of us celebrate while honoring or remembering our mothers. But for some moms, Mother’s Day is one of the most difficult days of the year. Rebecca Tully is one of those moms.
Tully, as many of you know, is the mother of Brittany Wawrzyniak, who died in November after being ejected from a moving car near the Worth Boat launch.
I remember the first time I met Tully. I visited her home just a few days after her daughter’s death and was more than a little uneasy when I knocked on the door. Tully’s husband, Mike, and her mother, Becky, greeted me. I sat down in the living room and greeted Tully, whose face exhibited a level of grief and agony only a mother could experience.
We began to chat and I made it clear she didn’t have to answer questions she was uncomfortable with, and we could end the interview at any time.
But that never happened. Tully soldiered through the interview, answering all of my questions the best she could. Throughout our conversation, her young twins ran in and out of the room, and I couldn’t help but think about how she had to continue to be a loving mother to them despite the desperation she was feeling over the loss of Brittany.
Imagine having to cope with the pain associated with the death of a teenage daughter while having to be there for two young children who were confused, to say the least, about the loss of their big sister.
I gained huge respect and admiration for Tully that day and in the months that followed. I know she’s been at odds with the Worth Police Department over the investigation into her daughter’s death. But that’s not the focus of this column. Rather, I’m thinking about what she and other mothers in her perdictiment face each day as they try to return to some level of normalcy.
I talk to Tully each time there’s a development in the ongoing story surrounding her daughter’s death. Each time I call, I ask if she minds talking or answering questions or if there’s a better, more convenient time.
She rarely refuses a request because she’s advocating for Brittany every time she talks to the media, attends a Worth village board meeting or meets with police.
Tully will always be Brittany’s mom, and she won’t rest until she knows the details connected to her daughter’s death. She has amazing resolve, though I’ve often thought about the pain she must experience during quiet moments when she’s alone and has time to reflect on her Brittany’s short life.
Brittany was 18 years old and was in the midst of that special time of life most teenagers experience after high school. She was working, pursing a college education, looking to the future, enjoying time with friends. Suddenly, her life ended, and Tully is left behind to grieve. But she’s too resilient to simply mourn and lament Brittany’s death. That alone solves nothing. Tully understands this.
So, when you celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday by attending a religious service, going to brunch or having mom over to the house, be sure to take a moment to think about or pray for Rebecca Tully, a loving and dedicated mom not much different that our own mothers, who is going through a tough time right now and would appreciate your support.