HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Life is a journey. There is a beginning and an end. And there are twists and turns along the way. We found a man who is traveling a road on his journey that he never planned to take. But he’s dealing with it the best way he knows how.
Every day, Stan Wilson parks his truck, grabs his lawn chair out of the back and makes a pilgrimage across Huntsville’s McClung Avenue. He’s on his way to spend some time with his son. “He was my best friend,” Stan told me. “We always talked. We talked two or three times during the day.”
They now visit twice a day. On his way to work, “I come in the morning,” Stan said. “And then come in the evening before I go home.” Stan unfolded his lawn chair and sat down at his son’s grave at Maple Hill Cemetery.
Chance Wilson was a record setting punter at Alabama A&M University. He died March 29th, two years ago. Stan found his 25 year old son unresponsive outside the family business. He tried to revive him but couldn’t. “When you lose your kid and your kid's laying on the ground and you can’t do anything for him, it’s kinda tough,” he said fighting back tears. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. It’s not supposed to be that way. “That’s the hardest thing we ever did, the hardest,” Stan said. “I’ve never done anything harder in my life.”
To deal with the pain, Stan stops by the cemetery and sits. “I want him to know I haven’t forgot him,” he said. Stan stops by in the morning and evening. “Tell him good morning. Talk to him a little bit and then I go to work,” he told me. “And then in the evening when I get off I come by here just to check on him and tell him goodnight.”
Stan stays until the sun goes down. “He was always scared of the dark,” he said with a smile. That’s why Stan and his wife put a couple of small lights on his grave. “I like to see ‘em come on,” he said. “Once they come on, I feel comfortable.” The lights are a faint flicker against the dark of night.
From time to time, people who are walking by or the folks who live across the street will stop and ask Stan if he’s okay. His response is always the same, “I’m fine.” He says people may think it’s a little crazy that he is there every day for more than two years, but it’s his way of dealing with the tragedy of losing his son.
“He was a good boy,” Stan told me. I asked him what he thought Chance would think about him coming by his grave twice a day. “He’d probably say Daddy, you need to go to work,” he said. “He’d say you’re spending too much time up here.” But that’s not going to change. Stan has sat in the pouring rain before. “Doesn’t matter how cold or hot it is, I’m going to be here” he said. “I may sit out in my truck and watch him or just talk to him from out in the truck sometimes but I’ll be here.”
Stan and his wife also have two daughters to watch over. One is getting married soon. “It will be tough,” Stan said as tears welled up in his eyes. “You just live one day at a time. But we’ll get through it. He wouldn’t want us to give up.”
The toughest part of each day is saying goodbye each night. As darkness fell on the cemetery, Stan got up, folded his chair and stood at the foot of Chance’s grave. He looked down and said, “Alright buddy. There you are.” He took a few steps, before turning around saying, “Be good. Love you son. Night buddy.”
But when the sun rises on another day, Stan will be back to visit again. He said he’ll keep making the daily trips as long as he can. The Wilson family is keeping Chance’s memory alive. They sponsor a display at the Huntsville Botanical Garden Galaxy of Lights. It shows a kicker making a field goal. They also sponsor a tree in his memory on the tinsel trail in downtown Huntsville.