Two days ago I had an exciting idea for this week’s blog post. Then one phone call changed everything.
Now it’s late Tuesday night. I publish on Wednesday. I sit here alone at my keyboard, hearing the clock tick, hoping I’ll choose the right words, having to trust my heart. There’s only one subject possible now.
Nobody wants to get one of “those” phone calls, the kind that gives you a strange feeling within a few seconds. You sense the weird vibes. What is it? Then the caller says, “I’m afraid I have some bad news…”
You expect to hear that some friend is terminally ill, or has even passed away. Thoughts of people you know, mostly older ones, crowd your mind. But you never expect to hear that the nineteen-year-old son of good friends, a young man you’ve adored and watched grow up, has died. The words sound foreign, incomprehensible.
First, I think of his eyes. Luke Rogers had the bluest eyes of anyone in the world, except maybe his mother, who shared that gene with him. They were the kind of eyes responsible for the expression “windows of the soul.” To look into them, even in the face of a blond little boy, brought a humbling awareness that you stood in the presence of someone extraordinary. In them you saw a deep serenity, a wisdom, unusual in one so young. I will never, ever, forget those blue eyes.
From both his parents, Karin and Terry, he also inherited the ability to sing. Oh, how he could sing. And he could play the drums, and write, and create art, and excel in school and outdoor pursuits, and anything else he tried. But when I think of Luke it is not those things I think of first. Rather it is the essence of him, his sweet soul, his sometimes shy and sometimes mischievous smile, his humor, his respectfulness, that I remember. I see the kid laughing in childhood photos with his sister Cara Beth or his older siblings, Andrew, Tim, and Cynthia. I see a person with a gentle way about him but full of fun, a loving son, grandson, and brother, a guy with a huge number of friends. Included among those friends, and no less important, were the family’s dogs.
Today while we gathered in the kitchen of the Rogers’ Seattle home, there came a moment of intense human suffering, a moment when the heart feels the quick, mean jab of pain. Where conversation had been, only silence remained. In the background of that silence I barely heard the whispered voice of intuition when it said to me, “Look down.” There, in the upturned face of a black Labrador Retriever, a portrait of worry and confusion, I saw another pair of eyes I will never forget. The vibrant and eternal soul we knew as “Luke" touched all our lives.
Tonight, back in Tacoma, I think about his family. I saw how empty a chair can look, how still a car not driven. When the phone is answered his voice will not be on the other end. But I also think of the lessons he learned by his parents’ fine example and the lessons he taught by his own, the way he gave to others, matured and blossomed, realized his own gifts and found joy in them, brightened the world and left it better. Luke Rogers changed many things forever, in such a short, short time.
Next week Tuesday night will come again. I’ll write my blog, trying to remind myself of my purpose. I have much of value to share with you yet and still believe we are all meant to live a “Good Life” with joy and a sense of abundance, like my title says. That’s how Luke lived. Next week his family and friends will have no choice but to try to move on, to begin the long, slow journey called grieving. We will think of them each difficult day.
I told Karin, “I know if he could, Luke would dry your tears.” She agreed. I believe that all those who go before us, all those in millions of families, lost through illness, accidents, or war, would want us to go on living. They would want us to remember them laughing hysterically over a joke at the dinner table, raiding the cookie jar, letting the screen door slam, throwing a stick for a dog. They would want to remind us that it’s the little everyday things, the cooking aromas and smell of mowed grass, the hugs, the sunsets, the music and magic that make up this crazy, wonderful, vivid time we call our lives. They would say to us, “Take it all in. Be happy! Do this for me.”
Goodbye, Luke. We’ll do our best to live as you lived, with joy, full of wonder and a sense of possibility, full of love. And we’ll always remember how it felt when you looked at us with your beautiful eyes.
Around noon on Saturday, Sept. 20th, 2008 Luke lost his life in a tragic boating accident on Lake Powell. He lived it with exuberance to the end.
A note from Candace:
To all of you who have read my blog post about Luke, I am humbled and deeply moved, to realize how many people out there loved him. On the first day of publication ten times more readers than usual visited here. Thanks also to those who left comments. I'm not able to answer you personally, because even if you leave a name they come to my email address anonymously. Otherwise I would. I still feel and appreciate the connection we all have, and it illustrates to all of us what a special person he was. I'm so honored that I have had the opportunity to share my heartfelt thoughts with each of you.
To Luke and the Rogers family: You are in our hearts and minds, always.
May peace be with you.
With love from all your friends.