What a family does together

Amadeus Hall, Delaware Valley lineman

My last mental picture of Delaware Valley defensive lineman Amadeus Hall is watching him celebrate the Aggies’ conference title clinching victory over archrival Widener last November. Del Val had just clinched the team’s fourth consecutive MAC title. Hall had his helmet off, his long dreadlocks spread over his back and a smile on his face. He was one of several seniors soaking in the moment, enjoying the victory with his biological family.

If you extended the picture a little more, you saw the Del Val football family – the coaches, players, coaches’ wives and kids, players’ parents, loyal alumni and everyone else who surrounds a team. Standing on the field after that victory was like standing in the middle of a family reunion or a summer barbecue. Celebrating is what a family does together.

Yesterday many of those people came together again at St. John’s Baptist Church in Camden, N.J., to say goodbye to Amadeus who passed away at the age of 24 last Friday.

Though I’ve been Delaware Valley’s radio guy for years, I didn’t know Hall as well as other Aggies. I primarily thought of him as the tall guy wearing number 85 with a lion-like mane. Someone with the potential to put pressure on the opposing quarterback and an exuberant personality.

It seems like Hall saw himself the same way. His Twitter account has an action shot from his playing days at Del Val. He was buried with a tiny replica Aggies helmet over his left shoulder. The aunt who raised Amadeus finished her eulogy by invoking his college football career. “Always the beast, No. 85 forever.”

His aunt and others said a lot of other things about Amadeus I never knew. He graduated in the Top 10 in his high school class. He was named after the famous composer and fortuitously loved music. He planned to play football with a small semi-pro team in Philadelphia while finishing his degree at Del Val this fall.

At age 24 Amadeus had already overcome a lot. After his mother died of cancer, his aunt raised him in Camden, New Jersey, one of the country’s most dangerous cities. Camden had the second highest crime rate in the country in 2010 according to one source. It held the “top” spot in 2004, 2005 and 2008.

If Hall would’ve finished his bachelor’s degree, he would’ve achieved something that few Camden residents do. Just 6.8 percent of the Camden population has a bachelor’s degree. More than one in three residents lived below the poverty line at some point in the last five years, three times the national average. Somehow, with all those statistical and environmental factors working against him, Hall was within a few months of graduation. All of that coated his funeral with an unmistakable sense of lost potential. Hall’s life shouldn’t have ended last Friday.

And so his family – both the biological and the football kind – did the only thing they could do on Monday. Mourning is what a family does together. They celebrated Hall’s memory, cried together and said goodbye to No. 85.

May the Lord give you peace, Amadeus. And may that peace and comfort extend to all the family you left behind.