Every June 14 I am reminded of my brother’s birth by flags lining the causeways and city streets wherever I happen to be living. While some folks think of their country and patriotism, I think that my brother believed that the whole world celebrated his birth! Fifty-one years ago today he was born in the back seat of a Lincoln Continental on the way to Fort Custer Air Force Base near Battle Creek, Michigan. The headline in the paper said, “Child Couldn’t Wait, Was Born on the Go.”
I struggle to find words that describe in a sentence the essence of James Michael Campbell. He was obstinate, intelligent, generous, and …tormented. I’ve come to realize how complex he was and how frustrated he remained until the end. He loved to hunt and fish, but he also loved a good debate. He hated authority and yet craved structure. He wanted his own family, to right all the wrongs he had perceived, but he didn’t know how to go about it. He self-medicated from an early age and trusted all the wrong people because they were loyal.
Today I am also reminded of his death. On August 14, 2011, he was killed. Tragic in the details of a life gone too soon and unfulfilled expectations, apologies, and conversations.
Today I spoke with a colleague who had lost a son only three years ago. She explained that he had been ‘clean’ for two years and ended up dying of an accidental overdose after a major surgery. There is a common language when she speaks; clean, addicted, gone, estranged, time. I tell her that I had recently seen a meme on Facebook:
We continue our conversation, work-related reports, and necessary details. But for a moment, we held space for one another, to be – to remember – to feel – and to move forward.
I realize today, that moment is the one I live for! I love these tiny pearls of connection, knotted on a string lest they pull free, reminding us of the beauty and transience of life and love. I don’t know how to live in shallow waters – it is the depths of moments like these that fill my soul with purpose.