Exactly six years and two weeks ago, my charming, seventeen-year-old nephew was instantaneously killed by a drunk driver. Jonathan Michael Baugh would have been 24 years old today. This blog is in homage to him.
My nephew, Jon. Isn’t he cute? 🙂
I’ll never forget that evening six years ago: October 17th. Our house phone rang around 10:30 at night. My brother was calling from the midwest. With the time change, I knew immediately something was wrong, but little was I prepared to hear such ragged pain so rawly expressed from his very first syllable.
The police and chaplain had just left, having borne to T and P the horrendous news every parent dreads, yet truly never expects to hear. A drunkard, speeding down the wrong side of a split freeway, had struck Jon head-on, causing his immediate entrance into the Eternal Kingdom. Through the coolness of the phone line, my heart longed to comfort my brother as he struggled to jaggedly articulate his agony. As T continued to give vent to his disconsolation, he uttered a statement that has forever altered the way I have chosen to express myself to the ones I love.
In the course of the conversation, as everyone often finds themselves doing, T relived for me his last few moments with his son. Jon was going out for the evening, and as they stood at the door together, T asked the typical father-like questions: “Where are you going? Who will you be with? When will you be home?” Then he said the usual okay-see-you-later type good-bye, little understanding that it would be his very last earthly good-bye to his son. With grief-stricken tones, T lamented, “I never told my son that I loved him!”
I had never heard the truth of pain given such a voice before, and his words reverberated deep within my heart long after the trip back for Jon’s funeral and memorial, and for ever so long after I had returned.
But what was I going to do with those sentiments? They could not resonate so deeply for no reason. And slowly, over the thoughtful path of several weeks, a plan began to formulate in my heart and mind. I had a choice to make. I determined to make sure the people that I loved know of those feelings I held just for them.
You have to understand what a big step this was for me. It was gigantic! Having grown up a little rough and unsettled, love was a priceless commodity–too priceless to be bandied about to just everyone like so much cheap Halloween candy. No! It was something to be sweetly savored with only those most intimately connected to me. Yet as I contemplated my life–how God’s love had crossed the threshold of my barricaded heart, healed my tender wounds, and surrounded me daily with insurmountable grace and mercy–I grew to realize that God had invested so much love in me that my heart was overflowing!
I had never had a problem saying, “I love you” to my husband or children or brothers or other close-hearted friends and family members. I remember though, the first challenge I faced in my newfound mission came with a sweet little gal from our church, K. I had stopped by the church office one day and wound up talking to her for quite a while. As I was leaving, I realized that I wanted to tell her that I loved her, but would I be able to gather up the courage? As I stood there contemplating whether I could make that ultimate choice, I felt myself become more and more determined in my commitment to her. After a I final deep breath, I simply said, “I love you.”
I (Subject) love (Verb) you (Direct Object). (That’s right. I’m a homeschool mom who can parse a sentence!) I, subject: the one who is choosing to take an predetermined action. Love, verb: the action implicitly chosen by the subject. You, direct object: the one who is the recipient of the prescribed action. At that one moment in time, I knew that if I was going to choose to tell people that I loved them, I needed to wholly communicate to them the truth of my feelings. No shortcuts. No “love you,” or “love ya” would do. I had made a choice, and I was committed to truthfully express my choice, because if I truthfully loved someone, that person deserved to know it.
My son confronted me one day. “Mom! Why do you do that? Why do you always have to say, ‘I love you’ whenever I leave the house?” (My other new resolution was to make sure nobody left my home “un-loved.”) I shared with him the story of his uncle and cousin, and then I told him, “Son. God never tells us how many days we have. Should anything ever happen to you or I today, I want you to know that I have forever made the choice to love you.”
I (subject) love (verb) you (direct object). My whole commitment.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3