Parents Brian and Sharon Neanover are searching for answers.
All their sentences end with question marks. Why did their son die? How did he die? Why didn’t he see that parked car?
MORE: Man killed in Monroe motorcycle crash died doing what he loved
Here’s one thing they know: Their lives changed forever in the early morning hours of Sept. 14 when their son, Gage, 23, a 2014 Edgewood High School graduate, crashed his motorcycle into the back of a parked car on Hollytree Drive. He wrecked less than one mile from his parent’s home on a Monroe street he had traveled hundreds of times.
The Monroe Police Department hasn’t completed the crash report and the Butler County Coroner’s Office ruled Neanover died of traumatic head injury and his death was an accident.
Neanover, an experienced motorcyclist known for his “stupid stunts,” his mother said, had scraped fingers and a bruised face. His new helmet was barely scratched and besides a broken back window, the Honda CRV he hit suffered little damage.
Neanover looked like he was sleeping in his casket at his funeral, his parents said.
“It was just his time,” his father said. “You ask questions and you try to answer those questions, but …”
On Sept. 14, there was a knock on the Neanovers’ front door, and Brian Neanover thought it may be Duke Energy workers.
Instead, it was a Monroe police officer who delivered the numbing news: Gage Neanover had been killed in a motorcycle accident.
Brian Neanover dropped to his knees as tears streamed down his face.
He then sent a text message to his wife, who was returning from New Orleans, wishing her a good morning and telling her to immediately come home.
“Please tell me it isn’t one of my kids,” she texted back.
Then she received more text messages from her concerned family.
By the time she arrived home, her front yard was full of people. Many of them were crying. She immediately searched the crowd for her three children. She saw Tyler. She saw Peyton.
She didn’t see Gage.
“I knew somebody had died,” she said. “I knew it was Gage. Like I told Brian, of the three kids, Gage was the one that I knew in my heart wouldn’t live to be older. Because Gage was stubborn, he was fearless, he lived life the way he wanted to live life. It’s just a feeling a mom has, I think. He always told us, ‘I’m not afraid to die. I’m ready for the long nap.’ Just weird things he would say.”
Ever since Gage’s death two weeks ago, life has been a blur for his family. Six hours after they were notified of Gage’s death, his parents were sitting in a funeral home making his arrangements, plans they never considered. His body was cremated and his ashes sit in an urn on a counter in the kitchen.
They may keep some ashes at home and store the rest of them in a columbarium at Woodside Cemetery.
Brian Neanover, 46, recently went to the towing company to retrieve his son’s motorcycle.
“Nothing prepares you,” his mother said. “You hear about it. When it hits home, you’re lost. There are no words to describe the loss of your child. This makes me appreciate life more, makes me want to hug my other two children more. Tell them I love them more. You just never know. You are here today, gone tomorrow.”
Her husband added: “You feel empty. Emptiness. It’s hard, especially when you have other children and you know you have to go on.”
Several years ago, Gage M. Neanover got a large tattoo across his chest. It read: “Change Is Forever.”
His mother never understood the meaning of those words. She often told him: “Everything changes. It’s never forever.”
Now, ironically, the meaning of that tattoo is as indelible as the ink.
“Change is forever,” Sharon Neanover, 49, said. “You’re gone and now our lives are forever changed. But when your baby is born, your life is changed forever. In a way I kind of understand what he means. Change is forever and you can’t go back.”
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