Cookin', Critters and Chillun

Pleadings from a grieving mom

Sometime in the last year, Tina Smith left a flyer at our office that called attention to the dangers of what some kids call the “choking game” which took the life of her son, Tyler Matherly. It was filled with small type about why teenagers are willing to get a high by choking themselves to the point of passing out – and worse.

The only conversation I had with her was when I called to see what connection Tyler, who died in Johnson City, Tenn., had to the Salem area. It turned out the 16-year-old had attended Glenvar High School in 10th grade, after his mother and sister, Brittany, moved to the Glenvar area. He had been with his father, Thomas Matherly, in Tennessee when he died, according to the obituary.

This image of Tina Smith and her children, Brittany Smith and Tyler Matherly, was from a family beach trip in July 2009, according to the memorial page for Tyler on Facebook.
This image of Tina Smith and her children, Brittany Smith and Tyler Matherly, was from a family beach trip in July 2009, according to the memorial page for Tyler on Facebook.

It said his mother requested “everyone dress casual for the viewing and for the funeral. Tyler would want everyone to be comfortable and dress casual. Skate board shirt and jeans would make him smile for miles :-)…Tyler lost his life playing ‘the choking game,’ please do not ever play this, it is dangerous, and as you see deadly. See the links to read his story, his cause, and order T-shirt in memory of him. God bless you all.”

He died Aug. 4, 2009, and his mother never got over the fact that she didn’t see the signs of the dangerous “game” Tyler was engaging in and which killed him.

“It totally took me by surprise,” she said that day I called her. “If parents see the signs, maybe it won’t be too late for them,” she added.

“Looking back I see the signs, very clear signs. One time I actually went as far as the doctor’s office thinking my child had a brain tumor because one pupil was blown, but it resolved itself, so I thought maybe it was his eye drops,” Smith wrote on the flyers.

I sympathized with her, and told her that even though that was months after his death, I would probably write something about “Stop This Game…Tyler’s Cause.”

And then I put it into a folder and didn’t – until now.

Tina Smith was found murdered in her home on Fort Lewis Circle on Monday of this week. Her 12-year-old daughter, Brittany Smith, is missing, and Roanoke County Police believe Tina Smith’s boyfriend, 32-year-old Jeffrey Easley, took the Glenvar Middle School seventh grader.

Police aren’t saying yet how Tina Smith died, nor have they named a suspect.

Meanwhile, the page Tina Smith set up in memory of Tyler is out there. On that wall are not only thoughts about Tyler – including blogs by his mother – but also memories of Tina and prayers for safe return of her daughter.

On Nov. 30, Tina Louise Dyer Smith wrote to her son: “69 weeks today, this year I don’t have the shock to buffer the holiday’s without you. You know how much I adore Christmas, the season and the spirit. Last year we adopted the family and supplied them with a buffet of games and toys, as well as food. This year I hope to nourish the minds of a youth group at a local church. My gift to you is for your death to help others to live. Give me strength to deliver your message. Your giving spirit will live on as long as I am alive Ty! I miss you so much. You shared your second Thanksgiving in heaven, I wonder what you experience everyday, do you still watch us cry? I wore our necklace this year for Thanksgiving, You will always hold the other half of my heart son, I love you much, Mom.

The Facebook site with all her thoughts and those of others is http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=115192928023&v=wall.

About the author

Meg Hibbert

Meg Hibbert held the position of editor of the Salem Times-Register and The New Castle Record from July 1999 - July 2014. She won more than two dozen awards from the Virginia Press Association for feature writing, columns, business articles, health and environmental writing and education coverage. She and her husband, Bill, live in Salem and are avid University of Georgia Bulldogs.

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