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Goodbye, my friend, it's hard to die

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Tyler Pesce Tyler Pesce

Tyler James Pesce 1990-2008

Tyler Pesce helped me to write what I believe is one of the greatest poems ever written. Last year, an English class at Clark Fork High School had been given an assignment to re-write Walt Whitman’s "I Hear America Singing," updating this classic tribute to American workers to the world of today. My daughter, Amy, was having trouble coming up with her re-write for the poem so I began making suggestions. I am not only not a poet, but I tend to have a highly developed sense of the ridiculous and Amy, it should be noted, was less than impressed with my contributions, not even with the line about the "raging, black cloud of Bush-evil."

Tyler, however, loved my suggestions. For the next few hours we roamed farther and farther afield in the areas of modern music, the life of today’s workingman, favorite Disney movies and corporate food standards and, at the end, sometime long after midnight and much laughter had come and gone, we had written what I think was an A+ production.

I don’t know what the teacher thought—I had the kids turn the poem in as an anonymously completed assignment, but she never graded it. Perhaps she didn’t appreciate the conjunction of "I hear America singing," with "caramouche, caramouche, can you do the fandango?" But I will never again hear the first line without hearing the second along with it. And, of course, I will never hear either without thinking of Tyler Pesce.

When Tyler died underneath the crushing weight of a car on Clark Fork’s Old River Road in early October, I cried but I didn’t cry alone. This town has been united in its grief over our loss of this special young man.

All kids, of course, are special, all are unique and deserve to be celebrated for the joy they bring to our lives. But rare is the person who brings as much joy as Tyler did.

He was not the most gifted student academically, nor was he especially talented athletically. But no one could match Pesh in sheer love of life, not student, nor adult. He had the talents of being able to live fully in the moment, of loving unreservedly, and of finding enjoyment in whatever situation he found himself in. Over the next few days, as students gathered to share their favorite memories of Tyler, those themes began to emerge.

"For some reason he just decided to take off running, but Baugh’s car was in the way. Of course, he ran right into it... I told him to tap me on the shoulder when he was ready to get back into the game. I was talking to someone and suddenly there comes this blow, it almost took me to my knees. I turned around and there was Tyler. "I’m ready," he said... Tyler and I decided we were going to get abs in one day. So we kept working out with this ten-minute ab video over and over. I was on the floor in agony, ready to quit, and Tyler said, "let’s do it one more time!"... No matter what happened, Tyler could make it better. He always noticed when something was wrong... He was always a friend... Pesh was everyone’s number one fan. You could always hear him cheering you on..."

He was tall and goofy and uncoordinated, and had an incurable sense of humor. He was caring and loving and never afraid to show that care and love. He smiled a lot; in fact, he smiled most of the time. He had some atrocious taste in music. "Tyler said he wasn’t afraid to die," one of his friends told me and maybe that’s so, but the gift of Tyler is that he wasn’t ever afraid to live.

Sitting in a classroom with a group of Pesce’s friends, one pulled out a two-liter bottle of Pepsi. "He was drinking out of this right before he died," she said. "We can all take a drink and then we’ll all have a little bit of Pesce inside of us." Solemnly, the bottle passed around the table and we each, in turn, took a sip. As the spicy cold soda bit its way down my throat I found myself hoping that the part of Tyler that came to me was the part that made us all love him so much—his joy in life.

-Trish Gannon

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Landon Otis

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death, Clark Fork High School, accidents, Tyler Pesce

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