Christmas of 1996 was the year in my family that would define every Christmas thereafter. I was 14 years old and I will never be able to experience the holiday without remembering the events from that Christmas. My 12 year old cousin, Jaime Lyn, who suffered a congenital heart condition, died suddenly and unexpectedly the night before Christmas. Nearly 20 years later, our family still grieves the loss of her life.
When my phone rang early this morning, all of the shock and memories of a Christmas so long ago rushed to the surface of my mind. My heart broke as my mother explained to me that Little Randy Ridgeway, the boy who my parents had been basking in unconditional love since kindergarten, had died a tragic an unexpected death. Little Randy Ridgeway, so full of life and with a contagious sense of humor had died. Just two days before Christmas, he had succumbed to a deadly and fast moving strain of the flu.
I was shocked. His mother stood by his bed at the hospital, in complete disbelief that her son who had attended 4th grade at Blue Ridge Elementary on Friday in perfect health could be dead with no warning. Just a year prior, Randy’s father had passed away after a long battle with cancer. His mother, who was left disabled after a car accident years ago, was left to raise their children. When little Randy had fallen ill on Saturday, she did everything in her power to care for him and to seek medical attention. But as fast as the illness had arrived, it left- taking her young son’s life in the early morning hours.
His mother Brenda now faces burial plans and pending medical expenses, and without the support of her community she has no means of meeting these financial demands. Although we as a community cannot heal her broken heart, we can support her through her greatest time of need by sharing her story, showing others the link to Randy’s memorial page, and by giving a few spare dollars.
As you gather with your family this holiday season, as you celebrate the love of your family and enjoy your sacred traditions- please consider donating to this cause. This holiday there is a dark Christmas tree in a cold and lonely house on the Blue Ridge Mountain in Jefferson County, West Virginia. Beneath the tree are gifts that will never be opened, and a mother nearby who’s arms are empty and who’s heart can never quite heal from the loss of her youngest child. May we, the community at large, be compelled take time from our festivities to express our love and condolences to someone who truly has suffered the loss of life’s greatest gift.
Donations can be made to the You Caring page that has been set up in Randy’s honor. Efforts are being made to raise funds to cover the pending medical expenses and the upcoming burial costs. Email inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can view the coverage on this story with The Martinsburg Journal here. The local fire departments are also reaching out to support the Randy Ridgeway Memorial Fund. Bakerton and Blue Ridge Fire Departments are hosting a Memorial Basket Bingo on January 4th at 1 pm at the Bakerton Fire Department (891 Carter Ave, Bakerton, WV). 100% of the proceeds will go towards the fund. Please call 304.876.0007 for more details.