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February 10, 2006

Part Two ….. The Limo Preacher

After I hung up the phone the hotel room became a scene of emotional chaos. In my minds eye I recall my brother, who rarely sheds a tear, crying softly while standing in a corner near a closet. My father wailed, wrung his hands and slowly staggered drunkenly back and forth across the room, his body wracked with anguish as he sobbed “David, my beautiful David” over and over again. I sat on the edge of the bed, in the eye of this maelstrom of grief, dumbstruck, silent…my mind a wall, desperately trying to comprehend what I had just been told…and failing miserably.

All that took place seemed to be surreal, everything around me moved in slow motion as if I were the one who was dead…a detached observer of events. Suddenly it seemed that reality rushed back in and overwhelmed me. I felt like a bomb had been detonated next to me and the concussion had temporarily robbed me of sight and sound only to have them both return to me like a thunder clap. And in that thunder was one thought and only one thought…I had to get back home….now!!

I rose slowly from the bed and looked around the room taking stock of what belongings I had with me, gathered them up and then quietly began to turn what little control I had, into action. The thought occurred to me that I had to get to the airport and catch the first flight back home I could…so I headed to the lobby. When I reached the concierge desk and said who I was and what I needed it was clear that the word of the tragedy had already spread throughout the entire hotel staff. Instead of a taxi they had ordered a limo which was on its way. I didn’t understand or care what the concierge told me at the time but she said, “we have requested a special driver for you who is on his way.” I frankly didn’t care who the driver was or what arrangements had been made and even acquiesced to the concierge’s request to allow another hotel guest to ride to the airport with me in the same vehicle. As I waited in the lobby the dimension of time took on a dreamlike quality that defied natural law. Minutes did seem like hours as friends and colleagues who had heard the news of the tragedy drifted past me like phantoms in a nightmare.

Finally a dark Lincoln Towne Car slid slowly under the portico of the hotel, and a tall thin elderly black man emerged from the driver’s side. He motioned me into the front passenger seat and conducted the young woman to the vehicles backseat. My father and brother mumbled unintelligible good-byes…there were really no words for us…and the Towne Car pulled away. The driver pulled onto the interstate, eased into traffic and the scenery raced by as my own mind raced with random thoughts that had no focus or direction. I was feeling sorry for the other passenger who sat mute in the back seat. The thought crossed my mind how unlucky she was to be riding to the airport with this me on this sorrowful journey when the old man reached across the console and took my hand. “I am sorry son,” he began, “I know your grief is profound and that light has gone out of your life this day.” I had not shed a tear until he spoke and his words finally unleashed the torrent of tears I had kept at bay until then. My body now was wracked with the pain of grief and I began to gasp for air between sobs. “Cry” he said, “Cry my son, it is good for your soul and for the soul of your boy.” He said no more for a long time and just held my hand as he effortlessly guided the Limo through heavy traffic, onward to the airport. After a while the tears subsided, he squeezed my hand and ask our other companion to put her hands on my shoulder and on his as well, to forming what he called a “circle of hope.” And then something extraordinary happened, something I never expected a Limo driver to do, he began a prayer.

“Lord,” he said, “look kindly on this young man, his family and his boy who is with you now in your grace. Help them through the coming days to know your presence as pain rules their lives, Help them in the days and weeks to come as they learn to live with the memory of their son who will be with them always. And help them in the years to come to find the strength I know they will find to take up the cause and do battle with the scourge that has taken their son from them…..so that other families will not suffer as they have.”

The Limo Preacher finished his prayer as we pulled into the Phoenix Airport and we broke our “circle of hope”. I climbed out and we embraced, two strangers brought together by tragedy. I had started a journey two hours before, a journey no parent ever wants, yet along the way there have been many miracles and this kind old man with his soft words of wisdom had been only the first of those miracles.

February 10, 2006 at 10:37 AM in The Unspeakable | Permalink

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