Tuesday, October 25, 2016


When I grieve my brother Jackson's death on October 26, 1996, the painful memories find their genesis in the night before the 26th.

10/25/96 dealt me the first blow. It's the night my sister Mary called me after she visited Jackson in Augusta, Georgia for the last time

Dan and I lived in Kansas City and had friends over that night. We were eating chicken wings in our living room, laughing and having a great time. The phone rang and it was Mary on the line. I knew she had planned to visit Jackson that night, so I took the phone to my bedroom to talk privately with her and not disrupt dinner with our friends.

Mary's voice was tense and serious. She told me, "Poozie, you need to come home - sooner rather than later." I thought she was being overly dramatic.

I gave her excuses why I couldn't simply pick up right then and drive 12 hours to Augusta: I told her I had to work. And, besides, I already made plane reservations to fly down a week later to spend time with Jackson. His wife, Bonnie, had asked for caretakers to help so I bought tickets just the day before.

"Mary," I said, "I'm coming soon enough."

I went back to chicken wings and beer and laughing with my pals. I even have a photo of it; I kept it because my later regret wagged its finger at me in shame.

The next morning, Dan and I slept in. I worked weekend nights in my TV news job, so we were having a lazy morning before I started getting ready for work. I was just about to head to the bathroom to shower when the phone rang.

I answered it, and the words I heard shattered my world. It was Jackson's wife, Bonnie. She was crying and simply said, "He's gone."

Tonight, I type this story and still feel regret about the decision I made twenty years ago, right around this very moment.

I regret that my sister called and told me to hurry, and I placed my excuses in higher priority than my family.

I regret my naivete that made me believe the biggest lie I've ever bought: "There will always be more time."

I regret the chicken wings and the belly laughs I had while my brother lay dying.

Have you ever read the verse in Isaiah 61 that says God will bring beauty from ashes? This promise of God's has come to fruition in my life; God has redeemed the October 25ths of my past.

I can now say God was generous when He allowed the experience of 10/25/96, because He knew my regret from that night would change the days of my life yet to come.

God knew my "no" on 10/25/96 would echo for the rest of my life. What I learned that night was not to wait. When someone asks for help, 10/25/96 taught me to say yes. It taught me to show up and shore up the people who matter to me no matter the request or the excuses I so quickly rationalize.

God shaped a new core value in my character through my experience of 10/25/96: the value of NOW because later doesn't always come.


Brina said...

I never knew the story of 10/25. I have many regrets about the two weeks I got with Emme. Why did I bother to sleep at all?? As always, beautifully written and very poignant.

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