Reporters have a strange relationship with death. Sometimes we spend so much time humanizing a victim that it’s easy to forget the actual person who died, instead just checking off boxes for the story.

“Did I talk to a friend or family member? Did I get a picture of the victim?”

Two stories come to mind.

One I wrote when I first began covering the news was the funeral of a teenager named Anton Nelson. Depending on whom you talked to, he was either a gang member killed in a retaliatory shooting, or a young man caught in the wrong place with the wrong people at the wrong time.

At the time, I’d only written about a handful of homicides, and having never personally experienced real, brutal loss, I had no reference point. And I had no idea what happens at the funeral of an alleged gang member.

I found out what happens. Friends and family members cry, just like everyone else. They’re comforted by the preacher, just like everyone else. They grieve and embrace each other, just like everyone else.

I left that funeral with a crystallized thought: All life matters. Maybe he was who police said he was, I don’t know. Even so, at some point he was innocent, and his family looked at him and saw the promise in their child.

The other story that stays with me was about a man here in Tulsa who got into a police chase, wrecked his car outside the Promenade Mall and shot himself inside his stalled vehicle. His cousin reached out to say that the young man’s life had turned after he was introduced to drugs.

I wrote that story and quickly realized that in it I had described two people who were no longer here. One, an adult who shot himself and the other, a teenager who had been a happy student with his life ahead of him, but later found himself facing what he felt was a life or death choice.

On Tuesday, I saw my brother’s headstone for the first time. Evan died in 2012 and it was placed on his burial plot next to my grandfather in an old cemetery in Drumright. But it took until Tuesday for us to put his ashes in there.


Evan Goforth.

When he died, for days I rode the wave of emotions that follows an event like that. I would wake up crying in the middle of the night, and do that for a few minutes before I felt empty inside enough to go to sleep.

But the light at the end of the tunnel was that, as a reporter, I had talked to so many strong survivors — family members who had seen their loved ones die, and had persevered. I knew if they could do it, I could too, so I decided to let all the emotions I was feeling take over, and just ride it out.

I could never thank all of these survivors, because there were just too many, but their strength helped me immeasurably.

So Tuesday morning was hard. Not only did we bury my brother’s ashes, we also buried my grandmother, who died last week. She’s right next to my grandad and my brother, just like when my brother and I were children and we’d spend weeks at their house, playing cards or board games with them.

But Tuesday morning was also uplifting. My wife and I were able to see another ultrasound of our unborn daughter, who, at an estimated 7 pounds, 14 ounces, must be coming any day now.

When we got our first ultrasound back in May, I was too terrified to form any type of conscious thought. But I distinctly remember looking at her little body during the next one, seeing her bounce around and realizing she represented the culmination of every decision I’d ever made in my life.

These decisions — small ones and large ones — helped create a timeline that led to her. If I didn’t get into journalism, I never would have met my wife, and this baby never would have been born. If I didn’t turn down a handful of job offers (and lose out on others,) I never would have met my wife, and this baby never would have been born.

My life took on a much more serious path after my brother died, and one of the things I decided to do in the months afterward was propose to my wife. So, in a weird way, that timeline of events led to this little girl’s conception, too.

Yes, Tuesday was a sad day, but it was also a happy one, and I know that this Thanksgiving I’ll have a lot to be thankful for, from those who are with us to those who no longer are.