ATLANTA -- It’s been just 2 days since Shuntee and Larry Gardner learned about their son's death.

His mother described the moment officers arrived at their door.

“Something dropped down to my stomach like my soul was gone when they told me,” Shuntee said.

At that moment, she learned their son’s tragic fate - 17-year-old Larry Gardner had been walking to school Saturday, leaving for a band competition, when he was struck and killed off Old U.S. 41.

Larry was the oldest of eight and his father's namesake. He loved being a percussionist in the Adairsville High School Band. He was already being sought by several universities.

“As a father and him being my namesake, you couldn't be more prouder,” his dad said adding that he always pushed his son to be his best. “Use the natural creativity the Lord has given you and be the difference maker in the community that you were born and destined to be.”

They are determined to mourn his loss the way they say he would have wanted. His younger brother created the hashtag “#LiveLikeLarry” to honor his spirit and giving personality – and make sure that’s what is remembered most – not the way he left this world.

But the family also has a message for the driver who hit their son.

“I wish our community will just reach out to them and love them and their children because we forgive them,” Larry’s mother said. “We love them too.”

Shuntee said she's already missing his legendary hugs.

“He'd always give you this bear hug and say, ‘I love you,’ and you felt it,” she said. “You felt it.”