Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Punctuation of Death

!  It started with an exclamation point. The phone rang at 10:41 PM on January 25, 2018. It was my son's wife, Jamie. And in a short seven minutes and forty-one seconds, the events that had taken place around 6:30 that evening were described after an opening remark of "I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you this...James had an accident on his four wheeler tonight and he is gone!" 

It was enough to take away your breath and wrap my mind around what I just heard. Immediately, the question mark formed and lingered for days. How and why this happened seem to dominate the process as the story emerged. As we traveled to the site of the accident, the beauty of the mountain was hard to appreciate. As we talked with the neighbor who had preformed CPR and whispered "stay with us, James", "don't leave us, James" for twenty minutes and watched emergency personnel shock him only to announce that there was no pulse, He described how James had worked through the day with Google Cloud co-workers and had ridden the four wheeler over in the fresh air to his house and discussed ideas for his "personal work thoughts" for the future. Jamie left for home and in about ten minutes called back to see if James had left. She retraced her path home down the drive to the paved road that connects them to their neighbors. It was there that she found him in the road. As others tried
to save him, what seemed to be fifty people, she had to face the reality of the punctuation of the period of death. 
. , : ; # I'm not sure how long it takes to accept the finality of death. I know for me and his mother, Vicki, that we have tried to be present for important events: some were commas that introduced new chapters, some were semi-colons that make you pause for a turn or a major change. These other punctuation events included pitching rotation in early baseball games, the effect of art awards in high school, his first girlfriend, first car, first job "Brothers Lawncare" including first riding mower and a flood of other events. Saying "goodbye" in some of the semi-colons; to Baptist Bible College in Springfield; waving "goodbye" in the Oklahoma City airport as he headed to Air Force basic training, hugging him at his wedding as we said "goodbye" to the young man who was now a family man.  Then there was the "phone interview" with Microsoft and the later "transition" to Google...
‒  Within a day of hearing the news of James death, Vicki started putting together a photo album, ironically in Google+ photos, that she labeled with the date of his birth and the date of his death. When I first saw it, what stood out first was the dash between the dates.
For now, I am relishing "the dash". James 4:14 "For what is your life? It is even as a vapor that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away" Life is so brief. 38 years is also the time we had. The first 18 were in close proximity with the last 20 full of "long distance" relationship and as James often said "crazy busy" times of work and travel, ups and downs and laughter and tears. But the pictures only convey moments and seem to fall short of the flood of memories that we are trying to hold on to. I am so glad he was part of "our dash".
Love you and miss you, son. 

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