In Memory

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Some mornings I arise and have no idea what to write about in my blog. On those days I search for inspiration in many different places. This morning my mind seems to be in a state of overload. I have so many thoughts of fabulous topics that I am hardly able to focus. If I had the time I would literally spend the entire day creating one essay after another. Instead I must choose only one idea, and that is as difficult as attempting to pick one flavor of ice cream in a store with a multitude of varieties. I suppose that in such a situation I would ultimately default to butter pecan, my all time favorite. Thus it shall be with today’s offering, a bow to a story of our humanity, the topic that seems to have driven my entire life. 

One of my former bosses has endured the most horrific tragedy imaginable. This past summer his eldest son was shot and killed in a road rage incident. He and his two boys had enjoyed a wonderful evening of attending a Houston Astros’ baseball game. The trip home should have been a joyous one, but instead turned into a nightmare that seems more fitting for a movie than real experience. 

The traffic around the baseball stadium can be dreadful after a game. People are jockeying to get out of parking lots and into the proper lanes for merging onto freeways and roadways as quickly as possible. It can be a maddening experience even in the best of circumstances. On this particular evening it was as frustrating as usual. My friend nonetheless allowed several cars to move in front of him in an effort to be gentlemanly. He ultimately decided that he had done his share of being kind and moved forward. This angered a man who was out on parole from a previous conviction for violence. There was a quick exchange of some well known hand signals and my former boss drove on toward his home thinking nothing of what had just occurred, just another night in heavy Houston traffic.

It soon became apparent that the felon was following my friend, moving at speeds of up to eighty miles an hour. He was not going to let his anger subside. He was determined to seek revenge for the slight of being cut off from the flow of traffic and the insult of that hand signal. In a state of panic my friend tried to lose his pursuer and then the unthinkable happened. The sound of a gun shot rang out inside the car, then another. My friend’s eldest son had been shot in the head. 

I don’t know how my former boss had the presence of mind to speed his way to a hospital emergency room, especially given that the crazed shooter was still chasing him. In the chaos of the moment he managed to call 911, but much of what happened later became a blur. His beautiful son died that night, and his world has been upside down ever since. His tragedy is one that none of us will truly understand, but he has attempted to record the evolution of his feelings in daily posts that are so brutally honest that they are often difficult to read. Nonetheless, they are some the most inspiring thoughts that I have ever read.

My friend wants good to come from his son’s death. He urges all of us to perform random act of kindness to counteract the evil that exists in the world. His hope is that we can overwhelm ugliness and violence with goodness. Still, it is incredibly difficult for him to control his anger, especially given that the perpetrator of this horrific crime is out on bond until his trial which may not come for two or three years. The unfairness of this flaw in our justice system haunts and taunts him. He wonders how it is possible that an admitted murderer can be roaming freely while his beloved son is gone forever. 

There is nothing that any of us can say that will help my friend. His agony is so real and only he can learn to deal with it. All we can do is listen and offer our support. His honesty is courageous and inspiring. His journey through hell is gut wrenching. I search for his posts each morning and cry over the hell that he is enduring. I want to be able to give him more than inadequate words that sound so hollow and trite because he is allowing all of us to learn from him in the most extraordinary ways. 

My former boss is an exceptional educator. His entire life has been about teaching generations of young people. He has dedicated himself to preparing his students for life. He is very good at what he does, but now his motivation is stronger than ever. He understands that the future lies in the young men and women in his school and in schools across the world. He wants to impart the wisdom and the determination that they will need to face even the most unimaginable horrors. He desires to keep them optimistic even as it is almost impossible for him to see past the ugliness that lurks in so many corners of his reality. Each day for him is a balancing act of maintaining optimism and surrendering to his rage. 

In situations like this, words all seem banal. Advice seems to be patronizing. What do any of us know of how it feels to have a beloved family member murdered? All we can do is learn how to really hear the voices of victims of violence and injustice. We can do our own best to take a deep breath and be kind wherever we go as my friend requests we do. We can make special efforts to do something nice for someone every single day in honor of the young man whose beautiful life was so unfairly and brutally ended. We can love and appreciate what we have rather than being continually dissatisfied. We can learn how to be more honest and compassionate with one another. These are the things that my friend hopes that we will all learn from his tragedy. Let him be our teacher. His lessons are real and important. Taking them to heart may be the most wonderful thing that we may do for him in memory of his beautiful son. 

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