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 Written by Lisa Forsythe, Journalism Advisor

On Sunday, December 6, 2015, MCHS lost one of our own. Junior Kirby Phillips passed away two weeks after sustaining injuries in a car wreck. For two weeks, prayers were offered on his behalf by family, friends and many people who never knew him. In times of tragedy, especially with one so young, it is difficult to make sense of everything.

That evening, family and friends gathered in the MCHS gym to have a time of prayer and grieving for their friend and classmate. John Chandler, youth pastor at First Baptist Church Selmer, opened the evening with prayer and a few words of remembrance. He talked of how Kirby had made the decision to accept Christ at the Youth Evangelism Conference this year. Ed Ford, music minister at First Baptist Church Bethel Springs led the group in singing “Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone.” Several of Kirby’s close friends stood near as his girlfriend, sophomore Sophie Whitaker, read a letter describing his impact on those around him, and how much he will be missed. The group gathered at midcourt to pray over those who knew him best, his family and close friends. For nearly two hours, students, faculty and community members cried together, and slowly the gym emptied.

As I watched the group, made up of mostly teenagers with a few adults scattered throughout, several thoughts went through my mind. This is not the first time MCHS has grieved the loss of a young person all too soon. Many faces from the past came to mind. Some I knew well; some, like Kirby, I didn’t really know at all except by name. One of the things I’ve always loved best about MCHS, though, is that we are all family, even with those we don’t know as well. When one hurts, we all hurt, and that extends to those who no longer walk these halls but still carry McNairy Central with them. With the advent of social media such as Facebook and Instagram, messages to the family and friends have poured in from Bobcats all over the world.

As a parent, I simply cannot, and really do not want to, fathom the depths of pain Kirby’s parents are feeling. There are no simple answers, or no words that can sufficiently address the impact this has had on our student body and our community. While we struggle to understand, and to help these students through this time, it is often difficult to find the right words to comfort. Junior Joshua Waffird offered the following words after attending the prayer vigil, so with his permission I am republishing them here. As the days and weeks go by, continue to remember Kirby’s family and friends as they mourn his loss.

“Sorry for this upcoming super long message. Read if you want, if not that is ok. There are things in life that sometimes you just don’t have an answer for why they happen. And one of those things just happened. This morning we lost someone here in McNairy County. His name was Kirby Phillips. No, I did not know Kirby all that well, but I do know about the impact that he made. Tonight I had the privilege of being a part of an amazing community.

We had a prayer vigil for Kirby’s family, friends, and community. It was awesome. Even though it was a very sad time, I couldn’t help but look around and smile. I got to witness people who may have never acknowledged each other before, stand beside one another and lean on each other’s shoulder. Yes, there were a lot of tears, but there were also a lot of
laughs. There were people who hadn’t seen each other in years being reconnected. There were stories told to one another about things they remembered. Everyone was simply reminded that this world is not our home. We each have a limited time, and that we need to make the most of it while we are here. It reminded us to tell one another that we love each other and how much we mean to one another.

So, I will say this. Thank you to the amazing teachers and faculty at McNairy Central High School for the love that you show to your students. Thank you to the parents who surround us with love. Thank you to this community for coming together to help one another. Thank you to the ministers who try and help us through this grieving process. But most of all, thank you to God. Who without him, none of this would be possible. I am thankful that I am able to go to him in prayer and ask for peace and comfort. I am thankful that he is here to wrap his pinions around me and protect me. I am thankful that he is touching our hearts, and making changes none of us would have thought possible. So tomorrow when you wake up… say a prayer. Thank God for all that you have. Then when you go to work or to school go up to someone and say I Love You. Tell them how much they mean to you. Cause you never know, three little words may change someone’s entire life. Keep praying and God will get us through this.” - Joshua Waffird