In the Kübler-Ross model, those are the five basic stages of grief. They are not all-encompassing, and are not guaranteed to happen in that order. And not everyone makes it to acceptance.
Tuesday marks the five-year anniversary of the death of Redskins safety Sean Taylor. And five years later, I'm still at "anger." That's not to say I'm angry 24-7 about Sean Taylor's death, or even that I haven't experienced the other stages in some way. It's just that whenever I think back to that day, that senseless act of violence, and what we lost, it makes me angry.
2007 was Taylor's fourth season in the NFL, all of which he'd spent with the Redskins. Even before being drafted by Washington, Taylor had become one of my favorite players to watch, from his time at Miami. Not having a natural FBS rooting interest of my own, I'd developed an obsession with the early 2000s Miami teams, because... well quite frankly because they were so damn good. And they weren't good in the traditional college sense of having great coaching and an incredible scheme and a few good players. They simply overwhelmed teams with pure talent (sending something like 40 players to the NFL in a four-year span), and Taylor stood out as one of the most talented.
During his first three seasons in the NFL, Taylor was a good player -- making the Pro Bowl following the 2006 season -- but also had his share of problems. That all seemed to change going into 2007. He put his troublemaking days behind him, and made the leap to being a great player. Taylor was in the discussion as one of the best safeties in the league -- no small feat in a league with Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu -- and then just like that, it was all over.
There's no telling how great Taylor could have been, which is part of the reason thinking about his death makes me angry. As a sports fan, it's bad enough to see someone with great potential waste it because of their own faults, but it's so much worse to see potential cut down before it can develop.
I have a Sean Taylor #21 jersey -- the number he wore for his final three seasons and the one he's most associated with -- but I rarely wear it. This one, his #36 rookie year jersey on the other hand, I wear all the time. In some small way it's my way of keeping his memory alive, and also remembering the potential, the greatness to come, instead of the tragic end.