Tracy and I met in front of Bennett Hall, just a few blocks west of the where a drunk driver destroyed countless lives, including her own. The irony of the accident and the origin of our friendship still just shocks me. Tracy is the mother of an OSU student, Kasey, who was killed by a drunk driver in March of 2014 in Orange Beach, Alabama. A family member of Tracy's connected us and she has been a force and a safe place for me ever since. Her husband, Shelby, joined her and I hugged them like we had all attended OSU together almost three decades ago.
Tracy is petite with sharp green, truthful eyes. Easy, the conversation bounced between the past and present without effort. None of us could keep from looking east down Hall of Fame Drive. Shelby's clear blue eyes would redden each time we said Kasey's name or Taylor's. The thought of more families joining us on "this side of the fence" made it difficult to breathe. I recognized the emptiness in their eyes.
We hugged goodbye at the gate of Boone Pickens where they enter and watched our alma mater honor the victims. It was very surreal to be on this side of the fence, knowing what was playing out in emergency rooms in Stillwater and Oklahoma City and being a part of- the life that was moving on. "Waving the wheat" at something as trivial as a touchdown seemed inordinate when the world was ending for families who shared the same excitement for OSU Homecoming. I couldn't help but ask "Why?" again. I know I shouldn't. I know there won't be an answer, not one that will comfort me or the victims from today - but I did.
Carlie Goekeler and Price Buckley were so gorgeous and handsome when they were honored as Homecoming candidates. I stood up when Carlie was announced as the 2015 Homecoming Queen and sent Price a text reminding him he will always be #1 in our hearts. I texted Aubrey immediately and we celebrated Carlie!
We tailgated with long-time friends who are more like family. Joey and I were back in the place where we fell in love. Two of the kids we adore received great honors. I met a woman I am sure will be a life-long friend - but...
As we drove away from my hometown, the sun began to set. Initially, soft pastels of pink and purple back lit the underside of low hanging clouds, but as the sun sunk below the cloud cover the splash of color across the sky captured my attention. I couldn't stop watching the sun set. Golden rods of light displaced the pastels and soon the sky was turning orange. With each mile that we traveled, the sky succumbed to a deeper orange. My cousin and I often marvel when the sky gets poignantly beautiful, it's beauty matching the depth of loneliness we feel without Taylor. Since Tay loved it so when the burning star sank with artistic precision below the horizon, it always feels like she's painting. We know it's likely just coincidence - but its consoling nonetheless. Tonight, my heart needs to believe the sunset was intentional; I need to believe that God wept again at the senseless loss of innocent lives and for the broken life driving the car. I need to believe He reached down and stroked the sky with the brightest orange -
In our anger, its hard to remember that God loves the driver of that car, the driver of the car that killed Kasey, and the driver of the car that killed Taylor as much as he loves the victims and their families. Somedays, its nearly impossible. But I should, because loving people enough to keep them out of car when they are too drunk to drive is the only way this kind of tragedy never happens again.
Thankful for lifelong friends who are always welcoming when we come home. Thankful for rich honors for two wonderful young people. Thankful that Tracy and Shelbi are courageous enough to carry our burden when theirs alone is enough to sink them. Thankful for the Light that painted the sky orange tonight.
........Lost for the families who lost.........
"The Lord is near the broken=hearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34::18
#Stillwaterstrong #KNW #TRW