Southwest Covenant football player Peter Webb remembered, mourned by thousands
YUKON — The white activity bus with blue and red decals rumbled up to the gate.
The Southwest Covenant Patriots had arrived.
But Friday morning, there were no jerseys or helmets. Suits and ties were instead the uniform on a day no high school football team wants to experience.
The Patriots came to Frisco Cemetery to bury a teammate.
It’s only been a week since sophomore Peter Webb suffered a fatal head injury during a game. There have been so many tears in the days since at the small, private Christian school in Yukon, and there were more shed Friday. Webb’s life was celebrated during a late-morning service attended by several thousand.
But two hours before the service, family and friends gathered at the cemetery, surrounded by wheat fields instead of subdivisions and urban sprawl. It was so quiet the crickets could be heard chirping, trumped only by a rooster at a nearby farm welcoming the morning.
So quiet, too, you could hear the football players’ shoes crunch the gravel leading from the main road to the green funeral home tents. No one said a word as they walked two-by-two, their arms linked.
It’s how they would walk into Covenant Community Church a few hours later for the memorial service.
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It’s how they walk onto the field each Friday night.
But on this Friday, there would be no game. This was a day for Peter, starting at his graveside. Early morning rain clouds seemed about ready to give way to blue skies, but as everyone stood aside to make a path from the hearse, heavy clouds settled overhead.
“This is a tough day,” Steve Lessman, Southwest Covenant headmaster, told the group, “but a day where we can reflect and honor Peter’s life.”
Reflect and honor, they did.
During the service later, all four of Peter's brothers as well as his father spoke about the 16-year-old. They were the highlight of the day, showing uncommon strength and sharing personal memories. They told of a brother and son who was competitive but tenderhearted, athletic but artistic, talkative but thoughtful.
Earlier this semester in English class, Peter wrote a short essay in response to a quote about a difficult journey seeming less tedious after achieving a sought-after goal.
“Once you reach the end,” he wrote, “all the trials will have been worth it.”
But as his father said, such understanding doesn’t ease the immense pain felt by so many in these days. Jim Webb quoted one of Peter's favorite writers, C.S. Lewis.
“The pain I feel now,” Lewis once said of grief, “is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.”
His father paused.
“Peter Webb brought great happiness to those who knew him,” Jim Webb said, “and we now feel the pain. That’s the deal. The pain is what we sign up for when we love someone.”
That love — and that pain — was evident as those who best knew Peter gathered together at his graveside. There were tears. There were sniffles. There were sobs.
“The good news is that Peter is not here; only his body is here,” Ron Jarrett, pastor of care at Covenant, told the mourners. “Peter is doing just fine. We are not, but he is doing just fine.
“Our hearts are broken.”
After a short ceremony, the entire Webb family mingled with friends. Peter’s parents gathered a small group of football players in a circle at one point, putting their arms around shoulders and offering a few quiet words.
Friday was supposed to be a fun day at Southwest Covenant. The home football game was long ago designated as homecoming.
It was a homecoming for Peter Webb instead.
As the crowd left the graveside, the football team filing toward the bus, the family and friends loading up their cars, drizzle began to fall. Thoughts of blue skies seemed far away on this morning of mourning.
Gray skies gave way to a sad, weepy rain.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.