I don’t usually talk to dead people, but the special circumstances of your untimely death call for unusual tactics. You see, it’s very important for people to know the story I’m going to tell because I think it gives a capsule insight into who you were.
Or are. My apologies; I really don’t know what to say, because I really don’t really know what lies beyond that murky river. I guess that’s why they call it faith. I hope it’s all true, but I can’t prove it. For all I know, you could be sleeping soundly. If so, you can read this when you wake up.
First let me say this: I’m so sorry that this happened. I know you would have never chosen this and would have done anything within your power to prevent it. Runners aren’t supposed to die, at least not at 31. They’re supposed to keep on well into their 80s and become shirtless, wrinkled, leathery geezers who shuffle up and down Bailey Cove on a soupy, crock pot summer morning. But they say your heart was too large for its own good. Mine is bigger than normal, too. Supposedly my arteries are clear and my echo normal, but I still think about it anytime I feel the slightest twinge or ache in my left arm.
We all know they’re coming: Death and all his friends, bastards every one of them. But I’m resolved after watching the way that you lived–and what you did for my sons–that they will not get the last word.
You may already know this, but your funeral was packed. There were so many people, they eventually had to send some in the receiving line to their seats before they had a chance to talk with your family just so they could start on time. The Guys In Charge did a great job, and I told them so afterward. No pat answers, no “Aw, God just needed another angel, preferably one with a fast 5K time, in heaven,” but plenty of words and hymns “fitly spoken” that comforted and encouraged the grievers. They called you a “Prince” and told how you loved Kacey and “your girls.” We heard many stories of your good humor and behind-the-scenes, servant approach to life.
But one line stood out so much that I pulled out my cell phone and typed it in so I wouldn’t forget: “He rushed to do the jobs that no one else wanted to do.”
When Number Three Son broke his leg again last February at Winterfest, a lot more snapped than just a bone. We both know he was out later than he should have been and that he shouldn’t have tried to go down a hill that others had walked away from. But there’s something about a snowy landscape, aglow in primeval, 3:00 AM moonlight, that makes a man try some crazy things. And if somebody can’t understand that then, well, I’m not sure they’ve really lived.
Believe me, he had plenty of time to think about that fateful decision every time he winced in pain at PT this past summer. If he had it to do over again, he would probably just call it a night and turn in instead of trying to descend down Gatlinburg’s answer to The Matterhorn.
But that’s still no excuse for Number Three, his brother and his friends getting dressed down that morning, even while his fractured leg was pointing outward at a funny angle. Maybe it was a bad case of cobweb head (I can relate–I’m not exactly my best at 3:00 AM, either) or perhaps sudden-onset snow-blindness, but The Guy In Charge That Particular Morning had a hard time seeing what Jesus would do in that situation.
I’m betting that He would have probably done something in keeping with the theme that weekend (“Love One Another,” or some such). I picture Him, first, not raising his voice or acting the least bit “put out.” Then I see Him picking up Number Three and carrying him to the hospital with a minimum of finger pointing. I envision Him encouraging others in showing compassion to him and not saying something like “Don’t feel too sorry for him because it’s his fault.” Finally–and call me crazy if you want–I see Him calling attention to the fact that one of the community has been wounded and then praying for his healing and welfare when everybody else wakes up and assembles for worship a few hours later.
Maybe it’s our particular “Heads Have Gotta Roll” legalistic tradition or perhaps it’s organized religion in general, but there’s just something about somebody suffering from the consequences of his own actions that brings out the “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” question in all of us.
Oh well, ChurchaChrist Youth Group Drama–it happens. I’m just glad they woke you up and that you rushed to do the job that no one else wanted to do. I’m glad you consented to driving Number Three and his brother (who was also hurting more than anyone could imagine) to the hospital even though, as you told me afterward, you had never driven in snow before. I remember thinking how odd that sounded to me at the time, even for a native Alabamian like you. But then I remembered the last significant snowfall we received in these parts was in March, 1993–about the time you got your learner’s permit.
The boys told me what you did: that you acted like it was no big deal; that you cracked some jokes and helped them laugh a little at their predicament; that you told them that everything was going to be okay and not to worry; that you stayed with them and waited patiently in the emergency room until the PA and nurses had stabilized Number Three’s break and sent him on his way; basically, that you did all the things that I envisioned Jesus doing.
I was pacing the floor and dying down here, not knowing how bad things were and imagining the worse. You were standing in for me and doing the things for them that I could not do. I will never forget that. And neither will they. Thank you, from the depths of my soul, for not allowing religion to stand in the way of your being a decent human being.
They say your heart was too large for its own good. I say it was sized just right.
Try not to worry about anything. I witnessed our community of faith make a covenant with your family, that we would do anything within our power to take care of them and see to their needs. I have no doubt that we will.
And don’t worry about The Tide, either. GMac is working out just fine, and Trent is starting to dance through opposing secondaries and give us a glimpse of the glory to come. Roll Tide, Tim.
Gotta go. I’m hoping to get a 5-miler in before work. Your race is over, but I suppose I’ve got a few miles left to run. I promise that I’ll try to finish strong, just like you.
In Memory of Tim Nash, 1978-2009, a Crimson Tide man and a True Prince in The Kingdom of God.