Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
'There is no right way or wrong way. Not when it comes to grief.' For two Quad-City families who lost sons, grief abides.

'There is no right way or wrong way. Not when it comes to grief.' For two Quad-City families who lost sons, grief abides.

  • Updated
  • 0
Combo photo

Left: Corey Harrell and Corey Jr.; Right: Wendy and Darien Ramsdale

Grief is a word we use to describe the feelings of others.

Speak it and other words — pain, loss, sadness, anguish — immediately come to mind. But that word is spoken to the wind — it never really captures the faces of those left behind, the eyes and mouths and hands and hearts of people fumbling to put words to the unspeakable or indescribable.

Each face, each grief is a snowflake — plentiful in the sky, but never repeated. The Quad-Cities caught a glimpse of two faces of grief this week. Their names are Corey Harrell Sr. and Wendy Ramsdale.

1:31 p.m., Wednesday incoming call

Corey Harrell Sr. spoke in a near-whisper.

"You know this is hard for me," he said. "I don't like to talk too much to anyone about this because I don't even know how to put it all into words.

Corey Harrell and Corey Jr.

Corey Harrell and a younger Corey Jr. spending time together. Corey Harrell Jr. was 22 when he was gunned down Oct. 31, 2018.

"I have hope. Then I don't. Then I'm angry, and people tell me that isn't going to solve anything. I get to where I don't know what to say."

The last seven days have not been kind to Corey Harrell. Today is the three-year anniversary of shooting death of his son, Corey Harrell Jr. The 22-year-old was shot to death in downtown Moline on Oct. 31, 2018.

The Harrell family held a vigil for Corey Jr. on Monday, and on Wednesday the Moline Police Department named three persons of interest in the case. Crime Stoppers also announced a $10,000 reward for tips leading to a conviction.

All of the attention has created a kind of a whirlwind — welcome in many ways, but no less exhausting.

"It gives me hope. It does. Maybe," Harrell said before he paused. The next time he spoke he was not whispering.

"I'm really angry. I think every day how many people are out there and they know something about the killing of my son and no one has ever said anything at all."

Harrell's voice was almost loud.

"If they didn't do for the reward, you think someone would do it to be kind to our family. How can you be a mother or a father or a child or a parent and let people just, just wake up every day not knowing who killed their son?

"And you know what else makes me angry? You start to repeat yourself. I feel like I'm saying the same thing over and over. After a while people just roll their eyes and move on."

Harrell paused again. The next words came in the near-whisper.

"What happened haunts me. Not knowing is like some kind of hell. You never really sleep. Sometimes you never really feel awake," he said. "But I did hear one thing today.

"Mike Wendt, he's an alderman in Moline and he's real estate agent. He told me had been talking to Corey about a possible internship, about learning the profession.

"I wish he could have lived to do that. He was a father for six months and he was working hard to be a better father. I have that much to hold on to."

Harrell's voice trailed off and he offered some apologies.

"I have to go now," he said.

1:50 p.m., Wednesday call ends

Bullets fly, don't they? Sometimes they hit intended targets. Sometimes they don't. They all leave behind wounds and the words we try to use to describe them.

1:51 p.m., Wednesday incoming call

First there came the sound of children — joyous screams, laughter, and a distinct "Please, grandma" near the phone.

Wendy and Darien Ramsdale

Wendy Ramsdale spent plenty of time in hospitals after her son Darien was left paralyzed after a shooting Aug. 29, 2020.

"No, you cannot have my necklace," a woman said. "Now, go tell your mom. Go on, now."

Wendy Ramsdale laughed as small feet retreated from the room and she turned her attention to the call.

"I want to talk about Darien — especially the person he became over the course of this last year," Ramsdale said.

Darien Ramsdale died last Saturday. He had been paralyzed since August 29, 2020. That was the night he was out with friends in The District in Rock Island and was hit by a bullet. After battling through recovery and rehabilitation, he died of a bleed on his brain.

He was 23 years old when he died, and his mother, Wendy Ramsdale, couldn't help but laugh and smile when she talked about her son.

"Darien gave me a lot of joy over the last year. He gave it to everyone," Ramsdale continued. "Look, was it easy on him or the people around him? Of course not. Where some days horrible? Yes.

"But I got to see my son change into this really positive, generous man who loved his family and friends and we all loved him back."

Ramsdale's voice was filled with what might best be described as mirth.

"I told TV that story about playing music and the nurses dancing. He had that smart-guy thing with those nurses. They gave him so much. And he had friends — I'm talking 22- and 23-year-olds — coming over here to the house to learn how to help my son."

Ramsdale paused and considered her grief.

"I got this incredible gift — I got a year with my son. When he was shot I was sad and scared and hurt. But then I got this amazing year where he got a chance to be a real force in people's lives because of the way he dealt with what life handed him."

It was Ramsdale's turn to speak in a near-whisper.

"I don't really know how to say this, but he told me he was going to be OK. He said it was going to be hard but that he knew he could do it. I can see Darien and he's there, dancing and he's doing great."

The smile returned to Ramsdale's voice.

"I am very aware I get a chance to remember my son as alive and smiling and helping other people laugh and feel good. It really was such a gift. We are all very lucky Darien didn't die out on that street that night. He got a chance to live a little longer and love so much."

The sound of children returned to the room. There was a squeal and a thud and the sound of small feet in retreat.

"I really don't have words for what I'm feeling. I'm sad. I will miss my son terribly. But he gave me so much. He took in so much. Out of this horror came all these beautiful moments."

A call for grandma was heard in the distance.

"I'm not telling anyone else how to grieve. People lose children or loved ones with no warning. They don't get time. They don't get to look into bright eyes and share a smile.'

Ramsdale spoke softly into the phone.

"There is no right way or wrong way. Not when it comes to grief. Or love. Or how we remember those we love. We are all so unique. That's why no matter how we feel it, it's really just ours and no one else's."

2:16 p.m., Wednesday Call Ended


Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News