It’s been two months since she’s heard her son walk through the door.
It’s been two months since he was hit by a driver in downtown Covington while biking home, breaking his brain stem on impact.
The driver of the SUV that hit him drove off, leaving the high school sophomore for dead.
“He never saw it coming,” Anthony Whiteman’s mother, Jennifer said. “They hit him from the back.”
The day after the accident doctors declared 15-year-old Anthony was declared brain dead.
“He died on the first, not the third,” said Jennifer. “That’s when they said he was brain dead.”
Two days later, on Oct. 3, his organs were donated and the remainder of his body was at rest.
It’s been a hard road for the family, Jennifer explains. It’s been a tough year: since last December her mother died, she has battled colon cancer, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and she’s had to bury her middle child.
She and her husband, David, have been blaming themselves for Anthony’s death – should they have let him ride his bike all over Covington, they question. Blame is an easy pattern to fall into when grieving a tragic, unexpected loss, but she does her best to help them grieve in a healthier way.
“I tell David all the time we can’t think like that.”
The gifts of life
Through her grief, Jennifer smiled when held the letter from the MidSouth Transplant Foundation detailing Anthony’s organ donations. His death brought life to five different people.
His right kidney saved a young man in his 20s from Hot Springs, Ark. who loves watching sports and movies. His left kidney and liver were donated to a Chicago-area man in his 40s.
Anthony’s lungs saved a man in Missouri who has been suffering with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
And his heart – this one brought a tear to Jennifer’s eye – his heart was donated to a 16-year-old boy in Charlotte, N.C. who loves to ride his bike, play video games, and hang out with his friends.
“Did you catch that?” she asked, dabbing at her tears with a tissue. “Just like Anthony.”
One day she hopes to meet the donors who carry pieces of Anthony on Earth. And if they don’t, that’s okay, too.
“I hope they stay true to it like Anthony always did,” she said.
Not at peace yet
So far the family has hosted two candlelight vigils in the teenager’s memory. They said there will be one on the 30th of every month until Anthony’s killer comes forward.
They’re not at peace with what happened and they don’t believe Anthony is, either.
“If you look at his grave, the ground hasn’t settled yet,” Jennifer said. “All of the ones around him, all of the ones after him, have.”
She can’t sleep at night, either.
“I keep having the same nightmare about what happened, but I wake up before it lets me see the wreck,” she said.
Having answers, having someone legitimately come forward, would help ease their pain.
“I know it was an accident. I would’ve been okay with that if they’d stopped,” she said. “The reason why it hurts so much is because they left him there. I keep wondering who is it? Is it someone we know?”
A man whom Jennifer said appeared to be drunk knocked on her door and confessed to being the person who hit Anthony. Jennifer said she didn’t believe he was genuinely responsible for it.
Her friend, Christina, said she’d heard rumors a woman who worked at a local convenience store was responsible.
They’ve reported both to the police, with whom Jennifer speaks frequently, but there are not currently any leads to report.
She said the police have told her they are hoping to work with new technology for a different angle in the investigation.
Originally it was reported an SUV, like a Chevy Avalanche, hit Anthony. Jennifer said she thinks it might have even been a Tahoe.
She pleads with anyone who knows any information, even the smallest detail, to go to police.
“If it’s their child they would want to know.”
In the meantime, they wait. They grieve. They deal with life.
Anthony, she said, still visits them. He makes the lights flicker at the house until they laugh and get after him.
The house. It’s painful to be there, she said, and they hope to move.
Her younger son Eric, who idolized his big brother, sleeps in Anthony’s room now. He doesn’t want to come out.
“My 10-year-old asks, ‘Mom, am I ever going to see my brother again?’ I tell him ‘in Heaven’ and he tells me, ‘That’s too long.’ I know it is. I know.”
She hopes asking the driver to come forward results in them doing so. It will help with closure.
“I was being compassionate before, but now you’re ticking me off,” she said. “I’ve gotta find my son’s killer. We loved him like anything and we miss him.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Covington Police Lt. Rodney McCurry or Det. Tony Doss. at 901-476-5282 or through Central Dispatch after hours at 901-475-4300.