The attendance — more than 1,000 people were there, with a line to visit the family twisting through the church, down the stairs and through the parking lot — was a testament to the life of Zachary Manago, an 18-year-old recent graduate of Moanalua High School with an 800-watt smile who loved baseball, cycling and God.
He was killed in a hit-and-run on Dec. 17, as he rode a stretch of Kamehameha Highway near Wheeler Air Force Army Airfield with about 35 other cyclists. It happened at 11:10 p.m. Zachary was struck from behind by a white SUV. He was thrown from his bike and was later pronounced dead at Wahiawa General Hospital.
He was just a few weeks from starting baseball practice at Hawaii Pacific University, where he was recruited to pitch. It was his dream to be a professional baseball player — a dream that was dashed in an instant.
His uncle delivered the eulogy. I’m sure he never thought he’d be talking at his nephew’s funeral.
And Zachary’s two friends — still teenagers — spoke, too, calling him a true friend, a peacemaker and “the nicest guy I ever met.”
I wondered how this could happen. How could a young, healthy, friendly, goodhearted 18-year-old with so much potential, with so much to give in this world, be struck down so suddenly by a driver too cowardly to stop to help? (A 25-year-old Mililani man was later arrested.) Why do these things happen — not just to an 18-year-old, but to anyone?
Death is what makes life precious, it’s what should be driving us to live. Because at any moment, it can happen. To anyone. Death is equal opportunity.
I stood in the back of the packed church, leaning against a counter that thankfully had a box of Kleenex, thinking about Zachary and how many people he — even in his death — has touched. He made me realize that life is fleeting, that if we don’t stop what we’re doing — stop chasing paychecks, stop holding grudges, stop complaining, stop being selfish, stop denying ourselves happiness — then what’s the point of living?
I’ve decided life is too short to worry about the laundry, to fret over buying a new computer, to complain about rush-hour traffic, to hate running, to postpone a lunch date with a friend, to watch TV instead of read a book.
Zachary knew that. And though he won’t be pitching for HPU or riding around town with his red backpack, he’s still there, in the backs of our minds, reminding us that life is worth living.
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