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TYLER COBURN, A PERFECT STUDENT FULL OF AMBITION AND POTENTIAL, LOST HIS LIFE ABRUPTLY IN THE BLOSSOM OF HIS YOUTH, BUT IS ALWAYS PRESENT IN THE MEMORY OF HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS. THEIR LIVES ARE FOREVER CHANGED WITHOUT HIM.
A Dream Deferred
By Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
AFTER THREE OR FOUR PHONE CALLS, I woke up to an unconceivable nightmare that invoked a continual pain so deep it couldn’t have been dreamt. My friend, Kelsey, was frantically trying to reach me. “Ashley, I think Tyler and Tanner were in an accident last night,” she said. Barely awake, and quite comfortable in my bed, I reassured her she was probably wrong and everything was okay. She asked me to call Tyler’s roommates in Bloomington, my college town, to see if they had heard anything about our very close friend. I hung up, annoyed and disoriented, and began dialing to find out the truth. Of course, at 7 a.m. on a Sunday, none of my friends were answering their phones. Finally, it was confirmed. Tanner and Tyler had been in an accident and were at the hospital.
KELSEY CALLED BACK to tell me there were a lot of cars down the street at Tyler’s family’s house. She screamed, “I talked to Tanner and Tyco is dead, Ashley!” I said, “No, no he’s not dead. You’re freaking out; these are rumors. Let’s not jump to conclusions until we know.” I was in denial and still am. My heart ached and still does. Our greatest friend was dead.
TYLER COBURN, better known as Tyco, was 21 years old. He grew up in Goshen, Indiana and was only short a couple credits from graduating from Indiana University in Bloomington. Tyco played football and baseball throughout high school, which is where his nickname was adopted.
He loved sports—some might say a little too much—and screamed at the television if IU basketball, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Minnesota Vikings, or Notre Dame football were on. His friends remember him as an extremely competitive person, whether that be in conversations, sports, or his own life. Tyco kept up with an intense workout routine and was incredibly healthy, and therefore, very handsome. He humbly knew this and always wore blue because he said it made his eyes “pop.”
AS A STUDENT ON THE DEAN’S LIST, Tyco was obsessively organized and driven. He had plans, goals, and knew what he wanted in life. For instance, he planned on joining the army after college to pay off the high amount of student debt he had accumulated. He studied exercise science and was working towards his goal of becoming a personal trainer. Tyco told me he dreamed of helping people who struggle with obesity, not “rich people who can afford a private trainer to come to their house.” He was creating nutritional plans and long-term workout routines for a woman in Bloomington before he passed away. WHETHER HE WAS WATCHING SPORTS, talking to friends, or finishing schoolwork, Tyco was always a passionate person. Everyone knew Tyco; he was very popular and well-liked. I am not sure if it was because he treated everyone with respect, or because he was always getting everyone together at one of his awesome house parties. He avoided drama and loved helping his friends by loaning them money, giving advice, or having a “chill session with music” in his room. He was energetic, intelligent, well-spoken, and a hard worker. One of the most genuine friends we could ever dream of having. He was the glue of the group.
IN FEBRUARY OF 2013, Tyco went home to spend time with his friends and family a week before his 22nd birthday. One of his closest, life long friends, Tanner, recalls that the night the accident happened Tyco met him for a drink before meeting up with a larger group of friends. Another friend, Oscar, said he had no idea Tyco was in town and everyone was very excited when he and Tanner walked into the bar. The group of friends reconnected at the local pub toasting Tyco for his birthday. They all agree it was an unusually fun Saturday night.
ONCE THEY LEFT THE BAR, the group started driving to different houses, which were anywhere from five to ten minutes away. Tyco drove Tanner and himself to his house, turned left onto his street, but never made it home. Tanner doesn’t remember what transpired in Tyco’s neighborhood, most likely because of the drinks and a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). No one understands why Tyco passed his parents’ house, went off the road, and hit a tree, just six houses down from his own.
INITIALLY, Tanner had classic symptoms of shock. After climbing out of the wreckage, he looked at the car on the tree and didn’t know he was in the crash. Most of that night is a blur for Tanner, like the following months. Tanner describes Tyco’s death as “a huge void, all the time.” It’s impossible to forget “the thousands of memories” he had “the chance to make” because they were together so often.
AFTER THE ACCIDENT, Tanner spent nearly three months taking strong pain killers, muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety pills, and an excessive amount of alcohol. He had to wear a cast and arm splint and therefore, could not work for three months. His employer did not give him his job back once he was able to work, which added to his financial burden. Nearly eight months later, Tanner continues to deal with PTSD and depression.
He still sees a doctor regularly for anxiety medication and counseling.
IN THE HOSPITAL, Tanner was disrespected by first responders who told him he killed his best friend. Bill collectors have harassed him, and he hasn’t received any compensation for lost wages or medical bills from his insurance companies. However, the moment in the hospital when he looked at his father and grandmother, two generations older, and they didn’t know what to say has impacted him the most. No one in the room had experienced this kind of tragedy. Rarely does anyone live this hellish nightmare.
A LOT ALSO CHANGED for another one of Tyco’s life-long friends, Grant. Grant was one of Tyco’s roommates in college for two years; however, in the months leading up to the accident, they had a falling out. The two were not speaking because Tyco didn’t agree with Grant’s habitual drug abuse and disregard for others’ feelings.
AFTER TYCO PASSED AWAY, things only got worse for Grant, which added to many of his friends’ stress. Grant attempted to use his friend’s death as a reason for his disregard for life in general. His friends saw this as a disgrace to Tyco’s memory, which they deemed unacceptable. Grant’s drug addiction, lies, and disrespect for his friends and family multiplied quickly. He destroyed a lot of relationships, dropped out of school a semester before graduating, and was forced to go home for drug rehabilitation. After two or three months under his parents supervision, Grant moved, rather abruptly, to the west coast and seldom keeps in contact with his friends and family in Indiana. There is no way to tell if things would have happened differently for Grant, but it is clear Tyco’s passing had life changing effects on nearly all of his friends. TYCO’S FAMILY experienced the same sense of disbelief Tanner describes, and this feeling continues for all of them to this day. Tiffany, Tyco’s only sister, remembers that after she received the news, she got up, got dressed, told her husband “my brother is dead,” and walked out the door. Within the first couple hours she had to make the majority of the funeral plans, which she never expected to be doing at age 24. She explained that every day there is usually a moment, early in the day, when she remembers and re-realizes Tyco is dead. Paying for the remainder of Tyco’s rent (around $3,000), $16,000 in funeral bills, and $40,000 in student debt are small stresses for the Coburns. Everyone in his family is suffering from depression from this huge loss. They were all so proud of Tyco and felt he would do a lot with his life. Tyco’s potential, a product of his parents’ hard work and his own ambition, was destroyed; his dreams and theirs are broken. TIFFANY COULD NOT RETURN TO HER WORK as a hairdresser for a month and finds it extremely hard to cut any male’s hair that slightly resembles her brother’s. She never realized, like so many of his friends, how fulfilling it was to have Tyco in her life. Tiffany feels cheated because her son will never know his uncle. She is worried that her one-year-old son is growing up among a brokenhearted family. Tiffany explained that she realizes chances she’ll never experience everyday due to Tyco’s passing, and while there are good days and bad, this is the worst thing that has ever happened in her life.
Tyco will never bring a girl home to meet his family; he dreamed of having a marriage as strong as his parents. Tyco will never have a family of his own; he talked about one day coaching football and taking his kids to church. Tyco will never watch the Indiana Hoosiers or the Notre Dame Irish win a national championship title; he came close to witnessing both in 2012. Tyco had so much potential but will never get to fulfill his dream of helping people; although, he positively impacted everyone he came in contact with.
LIKEWISE, GIANNI, TIFFANY’S ONLY SON, will never have cousins to play with; his childhood won’t be the same without Uncle Tyco. Fadi, a friend who didn’t go out the night of the accident, won’t get another chance to see Tyco. Oscar, a friend who was thoroughly enjoying a newfound friendship, won’t get to spend more time with Tyco. Similarly, I won’t have the opportunity to reconnect with my best friend, Tyco. I won’t get to wrap my arms around him with a warm hug. I won’t get to show him pictures from my time abroad in Spain. I won’t get to tell him enthusiastically, “I’ve missed you!” I won’t get to badger on and on about IU Basketball and ND Football with him over beers at our favorite patio-bar, like I so casually did in my dream last week.
TYCO. Similarly, I won’t have the opportunity to reconnect with my best friend, Tyco. I won’t get to wrap my arms around him with a warm hug.
I won’t get to show him pictures from my time abroad in Spain. I won’t get to tell him enthusiastically, “I’ve missed you!” I won’t get to badger on and on about IU Basketball and ND Football with him over beers at our favorite patio-bar, like I so casually did in my dream last week.
THE PORTRAIT OF TYCO: Taylor Flannagan, artist and friend of Tyco’s, started drawing the following picture soon after the accident. The image is from a picture taken at a Notre Dame football game. Some of Tyco’s friends framed the drawing and gave it to his mother on Mother’s Day. She could hardly stand when she first saw it.
Flannagan describes his drawing process: “As an artist, I wanted to capture the spirit of the great man we all came to love. I decided to use warm colors to bring out his contagious happiness yet let the colors speak for themselves. I felt very connected to Tyco while I was drawing the picture. I knew this piece would make his friends and family smile. If he had seen it, I know he would have loved it. I enjoy using symbols or allegories in my artwork and by including his sunglasses, I was able to add to his personality so that everyone could smile a little bit more when seeing it. I decided to draw a cloud tunnel toward heaven because we all knew that is where he was going to be headed. With his smile and his gaze fixed toward the eternal light, the piece was brought together because we knew he would be happy forever and this, in turn, made me happy as well.”