A thought hit me, hard, as I woke up in the morning. It was a thought that had crossed my mind numerous times before, but was one that I kept dismissing with resentment and disbelief. It wasn’t until Dad emailed me his ideas of the same nature that I knew it to be true: You lived a full life. Those of us you left behind feel cheated but your life was as complete and accomplished as anyone who dies in their old age. The old people just get to go peacefully in their sleep. They lose the draw to active excitement, I guess. They don’t wish their last moments to be filled with fireworks, cowboy boots, and karaoke like you probably did.
Your death was a tragedy for us but your life was not tragic, quite the opposite. I do not like thinking it but your life here, with us, was now complete. You had come full circle, given more than you had ever taken, and improved all those you encountered through the light you gave to the world. These thoughts are further confirmed when I look at the impact of your death. We are suffering but you were complete. As Dad put it, “a race exceedingly well run.” We have to begin to appreciate that. We are trying, but it gives difficult a new meaning.
I keep wondering what you are now. Did you get to pick what you became? Are you a ghost? You would be the kind of menacing ghost who finds joy in tormenting others. The kind of ghost who would move someone’s cell phone from one side of the room to another just to watch them question their own sanity when looking for the relocated possession. Are you a star? Do you shine in the night sky and grant wishes to those who pray hard enough? I doubt this because none of mine have come true. Are you an angel? Did you have to pass some kind of test, or go in front of a committee and plead the case as to why you should be allowed in the gates? Who am I kidding; you’d be on the top of any recruitment list. Are you anything at all? Did your spirit fade out to nothing when it left your body? You’re still alive in so many memories, but could that be the only place you are still alive? Something inside tells me that all energy must go somewhere, but I’m not sure where or who gets to decide. Freakin’ mysteries of the universe. Do you get to know the answers to all these queries once you reach Heaven?
Ben emailed me to let me know he had hacked into your computer. After tirelessly trying to guess your password, he called for backup. Thanks to the helpful hint, Chase guessed it immediately. Ben found an assortment of speeches and documents you had written for fun in your free time. Who the Hell already writes speeches for events that haven’t even occurred yet? You do, that’s who. I cried for hours when I read these. Knowing you would never get to read your written words broke my shattered heart a tiny bit more. I lit a candle in my room and tried to see through my violent tears as Nico sat behind me on tissue duty.
Amid the end of season speeches for your athletic teams, there was a speech you had written for the future. It was a speech for you to deliver once you had achieved your ultimate goal and became president of the United States. We are so painfully American. I can picture you delivering this speech perfectly. You would be decades older, probably have no hair, but would exude a sort of intelligent strength that would make the country feel safe in your hands. You would have won the election by a landslide and would have had a modern campaign slogan despite my pushes for a resurgence of the “I Like Ike.” You would look handsome and humble walking onto the stage and standing proudly between the flags before delivering your State of the Union Address. It would take all your will not to summersault out in front of the crowd.
Dad would be watching from home with Kathiann and Wendell. Mom would be playing the news at her house with 10 of her closest friends, balling crying as sipped tequila and repeated, “that’s my son! Go Ike!” I would be standing in the back of the senate chamber with Carter struggling to keep her from punching the journalist who had tried to paint you as a socialist dictator in order to sell papers. “I JUST WANT TO TALK TO HIM,” she would scream as I pulled her away and covered her mouth with my hand. You would thank me for this over pizza later that night. Amid the camera flashes and constant clatter of people trying to get your attention, you would clear your throat. You would begin with an entertaining opening line. I’m not smart or witty enough to guess what it would be. The room would laugh then immediately fall silent. Your speech would go on to discuss national issues, social matters, then end with addressing how the United States should handle the continual problems abroad. You would then get to recite the words you had written so many years before:
“America is a leader in the world, as a leader we lead from the front. The world goes as the United States goes. As the commander and chief I live what I preach and as a country we do what we want the world to do. As Michael Jackson said, I’m starting with the man in the mirror. We must decide how we will act and the world will follow.”
The room would immediately erupt in applause. More camera flashes. More questions from the journalists down front. “Mr. President, I’m from channel 8, can I get a statement?” Everyone who was listening would be filled with a profound sense of patriotic appreciation. The feeling would be similar to the excitement when Hugh Grant shuts down Billy Bob Thornton in Love Actually. I wish so badly that this scene could be more than fiction.