When asked to speak for a moment about Tyler, one thought came to mind. Winamac has lost one of its most beloved sons and Heaven has gained one of its most precious angels.
I had the privilege of teaching Tyler in his Senior year of CCD here at Saint Peter's. I knew him as a student, my right-hand man in Drama, and as a friend.
When we think of Tyler, we can envision him on the football field he loved. There he achieved athletic accomplishments that we all marveled at. It was only two weeks ago that Tyler placed a football at the base of this very altar as a symbol of a gift that God had granted him. His love of the sport was never for selfish glory. In fact, many were the times that Tyler would walk into CCD right at 7:00, though he arrived fifteen minutes earlier. For those fifteen minutes he would be out in the parking lot tossing the football in fellowship with others. I remember seeing him taking time to show eager elementary students how to get a better grip on the ball. On the football field, basketball court, and in every other sport that Tyler participated in, he forged dozens of valued friendships and faced every opponent with dignity, respect and sportsmanship.
This past fall, during a very successful football season, Tyler urged me to attend a game. He said, "Come on. It's a lot of fun." I went to the final game. Tyler played with all his might. It didn't matter if the chips were down. His driving spirit didn't fail. The Monday after the game, I told him, "Tyler, you have the heart of a champion and a SPIRIT that never dies." How true that message is here today. A SPIRIT that never dies, that will always live with all who were blessed to know him.
Tyler was blessed with the gift of compassion. We all bear a cross that Jesus gives us, but it takes a special person to be capable of bearing their own cross and sharing in the load of others. Like Simon of Cyrene, Tyler carried his own cross with dignity, but through his deep compassion, gladly helped others to carry their crosses as well.
He refused to accept mediocrity in anything he did and was an extremely well-rounded young man. He served as Student Body President his senior year; unifying a student body with silent strength. In the classroom, he offered a calming presence with an ear-to-ear smile and sense of humor that could brighten even the darkest of days. Our CCD class motto was, "The person in front of you is Christ's mission to you at this moment." He truly treated each and every individual with this motto in mind; treating everyone with respect under any circumstance. Tyler even wrote his own personal motto, "I live my life to the best of my ability each and every day, no matter what!" A young man of few, but powerful words.
Tyler had another talent in the Fine Arts. He was my sound man and was blessed with a sense of dramatic realism. Tyler used to pull me off to the side and say, "Mr. Schuttrow, that scene doesn't look right. Have them try it this way." And he was right! He often came out of the sound booth to calm a tense moment, give a pep talk, or suggestion to the actors and a pat on the back for job well done.
However, it was through CCD that I best knew Tyler and the love and dedication he held for his faith. It was there we discussed matters of faith, life, and even death. He wanted to be a good Roman Catholic and absorb everything he could about the faith. His eagerness to learn and internalize his faith was beyond his years. I remember well an October evening when after CCD, Tyler and I knelt together to pray the rosary. We had been discussing the importance of understanding prayer. I can still see Tyler focused intently on the crucifix with tears in his eyes as he prayed each word of every prayer with slow, genuine sincerity. He wanted to live his faith, not just go through empty gestures and recite hollow words. And he did live his faith. He shared with me much about his growing passion for his faith and how he was continually inspired by the lessons of faith that were taught by the outstanding example of his loving parents and family.
We even discussed facing death. Tyler was compelled by a deep sense of faith to strive to make his life better each and every day. And though he was always setting new spiritual goals, he was at peace with himself and with God. He loved to hear the stories of Lourdes and Fatima and to share personal faith experiences. He loved Jesus and the Holy Family dearly. Victor Hugo wrote, "To love another person is to see the face of God." Tyler loved many people and was loved by many people and it is with every confidence that I know where Tyler is today. Safely in the arms of his creator.
On the last evening of CCD, I shared in a letter with each student what they had taught me. To Tyler I wrote, "Tyler, through Drama and CCD, we have spent a lot of time together. In that time you have taught me many things. You have taught me perserverance. No obstacle stands in your determined way. You have taught me to have fun, to break tension-filled moments. And most importantly you have renewed my spirit several times when I was down or stressed about things and through your longing to keep learning, you have been a constant reminder that the students are why I am here and why I love what I do." He taught all of us something that we can cherish forever.
Tyler was much like a shooting star. Strong, brilliant, radiant and one whose light ended abruptly. I know he believed devoutly that he would pass through the darkness of death into an everlasting light. And he has. We are all just on loan from God. And God has called home one of His good and faithful servants. I shall always cherish the time I was given with this wonderful, spiritual young man.
We all will.
We have a deep void in our lives as we part with Tyler. But, every time we help a friend, love our families, give a word of encouragement to another, demand the best of ourselves and others and humble ourselves at the foot of the cross of Jesus - we keep his spirit alive, that spirit which cannot die.
In conclusion: Tyler: We will miss you. We share in the faith you cherished that we will see you again. We all loved you and always will.
Go with the angels Tyler. Go with the angels.