Their last time together was under those bright Friday night lights.
Players in jerseys.
Coaches in game shirts.
A thousand supportive classmates, friends, families.
This time it was a Friday morning, the lights muted.
Braden River High School’s Pirate family gathered to bid a somber farewell to assistant football coach Doug Garrity at Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles Catholic Church.
His tragic death in a single-vehicle crash last Saturday night in Nokomis hovered over the community all week.
Just 27, Garrity is gone too soon.
Yet his legacy is admirable.
He lived well.
He laughed often.
He loved much.
Friday’s turnout gave testament to how many people Garrity touched.
It included more than the Pirate players and weightlifters the former Bayshore Bruin and Valdosta State walk-on pushed to excel.
There were the kids he reached as a dropout prevention teacher.
They were present Friday morning, too.
It was Garrity’s enthusiasm as a coach and educator that Robert “Pig” Goff addressed during his riveting, uplifting eulogy.
When the former Bayshore Bruin, whom Garrity looked up to, requested an ovation for his fallen protege, Heaven must’ve heard the applause.
Goff’s words were also for Josh Hunter, urging him to be strong.
The Pirates head football coach and Garrity were like brothers, builders of and believers in a football program that was young.
Young like themselves and going places in a community forged by people such as these two good men.
Then came the accident, which remains under investigation.
Hunter was the driver that fateful night and has received an outpouring of sympathy in his time of torment.
Garrity’s parents reached out to him earlier in the week, a gesture of genuine compassion.
Outside church after the funeral Mass, mourners embraced Hunter one after another.
A poignant scene.
One wondered what the Braden River students took from the service.
A seemingly indomitable young coach, someone they admired and adored was dead.
The sight of Garrity’s casket had to hit home for the boys in their game jerseys.
Their classmates, too.
Life is fragile.
Life is short.
So be good to each other, Goff told them.
Mean it when you greet one another every day.
You never know whether it may be for the last time.
Mannix About Manatee, by local columnist Vin Mannix,is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a phone number for verification.