Cleburne teen's death remains a mystery

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on December 4, 2012 at 10:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 5 at 2:02 PM

CLEBURNE — A Cleburne family is waiting for answers about the sudden, unexplained death of a 13-year-old boy.

An autopsy revealed no apparent cause for the death of Caleb Midkiff.  But that's only one of the mysteries he left behind.

The others include the wonders of faith and honor, and a sense of obligation to a six-man football team in the playoffs.

Caleb died the afternoon before the Cleburne Christian Academy Lions were to play their state semi-final. He was on the junior varsity squad. Caleb was also the son of the coach and the little brother of the quarterback.

"Honestly, I don't remember much of Saturday," said 16-year-old Aaron Midkiff. "All I remember is after every touchdown, I was crying my eyes out."

Just hours before, on the day after Thanksgiving, Aaron said goodbye to Caleb in a hospital emergency room.

"Still unreal. Like a dream," Aaron said. "Like he's not really dead."

Caleb was an athlete, dancer and actor. His father, Mark Midkiff, was driving him to a rehearsal at Casa Manana when the teen suddenly went rigid and his eyes rolled back.

"I grabbed his wrist and felt his pulse," Midkiff said.

They were almost right in front of Huguley Hospital when it happened. Medical treatment was immediate.

"We pulled into the parking lot at Huguley, and lost his pulse," Mark Midkiff said. "At that point, I knew we were in trouble."

The elder Midkiff said doctors tried for two hours to bring his son back as family members rushed in, including Caleb's mom, four brothers, and one sister.

Mark Midkiff said the effort to save his son was heroic.  "I asked the medical people there, I said, 'Please just keep working on him for a little bit longer while I go tell his brothers and sister we're going to have to say goodbye.'"

"When it came time to stop, everyone — nurses, doctors — everyone in there was just crying," Aaron Midkiff recalled.

Aaron was still crying when he took the field the next day against Bastrop after a long, reflective drive to Brenham for the game.

Aaron ran or threw for seven touchdowns. His dad coached through the tears, watching Aaron on the field... seeing Caleb in his mind.

Mark Midkiff said he never doubted what he had to do.

"Something you wouldn't wish on anyone," he said, adding: "There are also other people counting on you ...  we play as a team, we finish as a team."

Coach Midkiff said Aaron and both teams worked hard all season for this game. Aaron said it wasn't like any other playoff. "They would hit me, and they would pick me up, and they would always say, 'Hey, we're praying for you, man. Keep it up. You're playing a good game.'"

Aaron said Caleb would have loved that. "We play TCAL, Texas Christian Athletic League, and want to show that we are living what God wants in playing the way we need to play," Aaron said.

The Cleburne Christian Academy Lions lost the game 78 to 57.

Coach Midkiff said he told his team at the start of the season they'll face life's lessons together with faith and character.

The football team wore their jerseys to Caleb's funeral, and bore his casket to the grave.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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