Today my wife and I spent almost 4 hours at the cemetery planting flowers at David's grave. Some of that time was talking with another family who lost their 17 year old in an auto accident 3 years ago. Their sons grave is across from David's. It was good to talk with the mom and dad and to hear different perspectives on how they have handled grief, and how it never really gets easier. I am so thankful for families like theirs that are willing to open up and share in their journey as well.
So getting to my title, and my thought process behind reconciling the two. Spring is here! We know this not only because the calendar validates it, but because everything turns to life in the spring and is in full bloom, to my allergies detriment I assure you! Tree pollen is all over the cars. The grass is green and needing cut every 4 days. Life just seems to come alive around me from every angle...BUT the angle that I want and need it to be real. David is never coming back, and I understand that concept. However, for those that have not lost a close loved one, this next thought might be lost on you. It is possible to still have life after death. I am not talking about heaven and hell, although as a Christian I fully believe in those places. I am talking about taking David's memories with me wherever I go. Just this evening I told my other son Nathan that I was going to write another blog, and that most of them tended to be about David. He laughed and said that there was nothing to really write about him, which is absolutely not true. I have also had to get over writers remorse of using this avenue as an outlet to talk about my dead son, and not my one who is alive, and my daughter. We have talked through this, and they understand my purpose of healing in writing these blogs, and they don't feel slighted for not writing about them. Rest assured, their time is coming when I will write about how much I love both of them, and how I am so proud of them.
So life after death while on this earth? No, I am not promoting some kind of phantasm or ghost of David following me around. Quite the contrary. I am talking about keeping David's memories ALIVE! Allow me to share with you some memories and pictures from three years ago to the week. David was at Ft. Eustis in AIT out in Virginia Beach. Being that I controlled my schedule for work, I was able to schedule myself an audit trip out there one week. It was such a sweet time that I cling to and will never forget. I remember flying into Virginia Beach, and picking up my rental car at the Hertz counter, as they had upgraded me to a convertible Mustang. I very casually texted David to inform him that I had landed, and that they had given me a blue Chrysler Town & Country minivan. His response by text was, "Are you freaking kidding me?" I told him we would have fun that week, no matter what ride I had. I asked him to look for me on base in 30 minutes in the blue minivan outside of his barracks. Needless to say, I will never forget the smile that was on his face when he came outside and saw me leaning against the Mustang with the top down, and not a soccer mom mobile.
Every day that week I got done early in the afternoon, and picked him up on base. He would ask that I buy him a $7 smoothie with matcha powder (who drinks that crap) at Tropical Smoothie Café, while I got the blueberry acai smoothie. I admit we both felt a little emasculated walking out of the café with our tootie frootie high priced smoothies. We did it every day, and boy am I so glad I didn't complain about the price, as I will always have that memory. We would drive the Historical Triangle of Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Jamestown. I remember him asking me on day one if he could drive. The black and white compliance officer that I am wanted to say, "No, you are not on the rental agreement." However, I told him sure, and tossed the keys to him. Man oh man I am glad that I was not uptight that week, as he had so much fun driving with his dad with the top down, while blasting "Old Town Road." I will never forget the feel of sitting next to my son realizing he was maturing and growing up. He was running a tight ship in training, and would eventually graduate a few weeks later as the top of his class.
One day David and I went over to the backside of a Navy base near Cripple Creek where the Seals train. He flashed his Army creds, and we were waived on through. I looked at him as though he was big stuff, and he looked at me and smiled, and simply said, "Huh, I wasn't sure that would work." We got a big laugh out of that entrance. We drove down the road, and he wanted to pull off at an old abandoned base house that was on the sandy beach. The roof was falling in, and needless to say it had seen better days. He opened up that screen door, unbuttoned his shirt, and posed for what could have been a GQ picture. David always thought about modeling, and was so photogenic. After leaving that base, we went to go eat us a seafood dinner at a dive restaurant just off the beach. We both ordered Shrimp Po Boys from that place, and I remember taking a call from Amy while we were sitting there. We informed her about our adventures that day and had some good laughs.
I share all of these stories with you for one purpose. I wish to have life after death. I know that my son is never going to come back from the dead, but I can work hard on keeping him alive in my memories. The way that I keep David alive is by keeping his memories alive, and that is not based on the seasons. This winter when everything withers away outside, I am not going to put David on a shelf until spring time. I will continue to share and live his memories in honor of him. David went out with his boots on (My favorite quote from the movie Secondhand Lions).
On the back of David's gravestone we have two quotes that were his favorite. We talked about the first one numerous times together, and thought about incorporating it somehow into a "Jacobs Boy Tattoo."
"Fate whispers to the warrior, you cannot withstand the storm!" And the warrior whispers back, I AM THE STORM!"
"Die with memories, not with dreams!"
David personified both of those quotes, and never lived a dull day. He was not reserved and cautious, but knew how to live, sometimes too hard. He was adventurous enough to leave his base in South Korea, and to take a train to Seoul, hail an Uber driver to take him to the base of the mountain. then proceed to climb to the top. That is not something I taught him, but something that was ingrained in him to do. He was an adventure thrill seeker.
David, I might not be a risk taker like you, but since your death you have motivated me and given me purpose to live. I will try to be a better man for you, since you weren't able to live past your 21 years. I will show your 4 year old son Thomas what his dad was like, and will continue to love on him as I know you would have. David, I love and miss you every day (and cry most of those), but just as the season has changed and shows new growth and life, I will continue to keep your memories alive in sharing in all that I do. Love you son!!!