In the weeks after Brice Taylor’s death five years ago today, his mother and father learned more and more about their only son.
They always knew he had a love for family, baseball and the outdoors. But there was more.
“Sometimes you think you know everything about your kids and you really don’t,” David Taylor said.
When Brice, 20, would work at the family business, Dix-E-Town Lanes, he always wanted to be scheduled on Tuesday nights.
David and Tonya Taylor never really knew why until after his 2014 passing from a head injury when he was struck by a deer while driving an ATV near Valley Creek Baptist Church. The collision happened just seconds after he had left a gathering to remember his sister Brianna, 17, who had been killed June 23 when the car she was driving was struck by a drunken driver.
“On Tuesday nights, that’s when some special needs families would be there bowling,” David said. “He reached out to those kids and he enjoyed being with them. It was amazing to hear after he passed about how much these special needs families loved Brice Taylor. Brianna would be there, too, but Brice was there every Tuesday and that was a blessing.”
Brice was injured in the early morning hours of June 30 and was pronounced dead July 5. He never regained consciousness after the collision.
In a span of 12 days in 2014, the Taylors only two children were gone.
“On the night of Brice’s injury ... I leaned over and hugged him in the driveway and he gave me one of those side hugs,” Tonya recalled. “I told him, ‘Don’t you ever side hug your mom, you better give me a full hug.’ And he did and he gave me a big bear hug. I told him I loved him more than anything. That was the last thing I said to him.
“Ten minutes later, he was laying on Springfield Road. But they knew they were loved.”
Almost without fail, David said, he would drive ahead of Brice. This time he didn’t. This time he was a short distance behind.
It’s been more than 1,800 days since the Taylors lost both of their children. At times, they say, the grief has been unbearable. Other times, they have moments when they can smile and laugh. Most of the time, those smiles and laughs come from memories of their two children who they cherished then, and now.
“We had such good relationships with our kids and we had good kids,” Tonya said. “...When I reflect on everything with our kids, it’s good.”
Brice loved the outdoors, it was a place for peace, comfort and enjoyment for him, David said.
“He got that from his Papaw (Tonya’s dad),” David said. “He went on wagon rides ... when he went over to Papaw’s house he didn’t stay in the house. He was out on the mules, or tractors or they were out in the garden. He just loved it.”
Tonya said Brice likely would have been running the bowling alley by now if not for the tragedy.
“It would have been that or farming,” David said. “He loved playing out here. He wanted to get into growing strawberries and everything else.”
He was just days away from his 21st birthday.
“In 12 days, life how we knew it was over,” Tonya said. “Twelve days. ... we lived for our kids.”
Tonya said she recently saw someone describe the death of a loved one who said when you lose a parent, you lose your past; when you lose a spouse you lose your present and when you lose a child, you lose your future.
“That’s what I’ve said over and over again,” Tonya said. “I’m only in my 40s. I could live another 30 years ... there will never be anything ever again like the times I’ve had with my kids.”
The Taylors have shared their story at schools in the intervening years, especially with warnings about driving while intoxicated. Tonya said it was hard for her to do that.
“I just like helping people and if it can save one child from every graduation, it’s a blessing,” David said. “... Just to let people know in our community that it’s real. You know you can watch a movie, you can see the news, but to know our community has been so good to us and the only way that we can repay them is to help them like they helped us by telling our story. We’re here to help anybody.”
The Taylors said some of Brice and Brianna’s friends still come out to their home for visits. Some now are parents — roles they knew their children would have embraced.
They find comfort in knowing their children made such an influence and even in their deaths, their impact is still felt among many of their friends.
Brice’s friends like Ryne Kauffeld and Cory Farrow, baseball teammates at Elizabethtown High School, visit and stories of times together always are shared.
Tonya said there’s a sadness in hearing those stories.
“It’s the same stories,” she said. “It makes me sad because now there’s never going to be any new stories.”