I often wonder about you, you would have been 26 this year, that's only a few years younger than me. I wonder what kind of man you might have turned out to be? Would you have kids of your own yet? I wonder how your mother is doing without you in her life anymore. Is she getting along OK? They say no one ever really recovers from losing a child, and this day will never be the same for her ever again. I never met your mother, they do a pretty good job of keeping those things anonymous, though if I wanted to dig around a little I'm sure I could figure out her name. In some ways I don't want to know, how do you say thank you to someone for choosing the gift she gave, trying to make something positive out of such a great tragedy. We did receive a letter from her once with all the identifying information blocked out, and that's the only way I even know your story.
So many things had to happen just right or just wrong that fateful day or our paths never would have even crossed. What would have happened if you'd stayed in school, instead of skipping class with your friend? Or what if you'd taken a different route than the one you did? It could have been that the train was running five minutes late and I never would have been the wiser to your existence at all.
I suppose I should take a little time to tell you about my father, you've played such a huge role in all of our lives here. He's not a perfect man by any means. He can be harsh, and sometimes a little narrow minded about things. We didn't get along the greatest when I was growing up, the teen years were pretty tough to get through, but I suppose that's how all families go. He tries hard and he works hard, a farmer by trade, the only life he's really ever known. He's mellowed out a lot over the last 10 years, I suppose you've played a role in that coming about. I can see him ponder on things a little more than he used to, reflecting on his own frailty of life, when circumstance merits on the farm. Just last year the man that never cried shed a single tear when a calf we tried to save just didn't make it. He then abruptly accused the wind of blowing dirt into his eye, but such is the way it goes with him.
I feel no joy over the fact that your candle was extinguished so soon, before you'd even had a chance to get out and experience life, but I'm gracious that sometimes good can come out from even the most horrendous things. See 11 years ago I was all too familiar with the hospital halls, I'd come to spend so much time up there. I worked all day and then hurried up there each evening just to spend a little time with my dad, and it was a 2 hour journey each way. Money was tight and my old car was logging a lot of miles but none of that mattered with time more valuable seeming to slip by too fast and working against us.
It started out simple enough; he was having trouble getting all his farm chores done. He just thought he was getting old. It persisted on, and he drifted along, thinking he just needed to get through the harvest season to winter so he could get some rest. Winter came, and through much prodding, we finally talked him into going to see the doctor. Nothing could have prepared us for when they said his ticker had run out and he needed a new heart or he wouldn't make it much longer. And that is the way I spent the winter of 2001, fretting every day, I would get "the call" and never see my father again.
The call hasn't yet come for us; instead it came to your mother. Kind of ironic that my father received a heart on Valentine's Day, no not the paper kind you cut and paste in grade school, but a living beating human heart. He made a full recovery after that. They said they'd never seen anyone so determined to get out of the hospital. Two months later he was out in the fields planting corn again, though I still had to slow him down a bit when it came to lifting the hay. And so life has gone on here on the farm and the seasons keep changing as we've gone through these years. Each day I wake up and am thankful for the time I've had with my father, because back at the age of 22 I wasn't at all ready to say goodbye yet. Sometimes I wonder what kind of person you might have turned out to be? I don't know how I would ever say thank you to your family for the gift that they have given us, the gift of life that came to be, but I am gracious for it, at least I get to know a little part of you that carries on, I think of it every time when my father pulls into the driveway to feed his cows for the day.