Monday, September 6, 2010
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaves a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So Dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.
Indulge me, dear readers, a more personal note. Today I want to talk about someone who was one of the finest persons, if not the best, I have ever had the privilege of knowing. James, our son-in-law, would have marked his 35th birthday today. Our family will never be the same without him and we all mark his absence when we are together. Since he is much on my mind today, I want to share my thoughts with you. I wrote these remarks to honor his gravesite Fathers Day, June 2005, when, at six months, our grief was raw and overwhelming. What I wrote for that day still serves his memory well after almost six years of his being apart from us. Thank you for reading and say a prayer in James' memory, if you will.
The first day we met James was Thanksgiving of 1998. The moment that James walked through my front door at Marian Trail, shook my hand and looked me in the eyes, I knew that he would marry Gabriel. I told Ed later that night as we were preparing for bed "that boy is going to be our son-in-law." I don't know exactly how to describe it, but from the very first, James and I had a bond. Maybe it was kindred souls that have been wounded in childhood that recognized each other automatically. Maybe it was our warped sense of humor. Maybe it was God. All I know is that James became in such a short time the son I did not have. I have often described it as "not my son by birth, but son of my heart."
James affected us all. Matt told Gabe that Thanksgiving night that now seems like a lifetime away, that before, she had brought home boys for us to meet, but on that day she brought home a man. Over the course of the years, Matt and Paige and James became closer and closer to the point that James was the brother that neither of them had ever had. James will forever be Matt's brother in his heart. As they hiked the mountains of Carolina together, they made plans to bring their sons with them. For Matt, the words, "Lift up thine eyes unto the hills" will bring special memories of their time together and the future that will never be.
When James proposed to Gabriel and they made their wedding plans, I thought how fortunate James was to be marrying into our family. On their wedding day at the end of the ceremony as we congregated outside the church sanctuary, I hugged James and whispered in his ear, "Now you are legally part of our family," and he whispered back, "Finally!". I thought at the time that James was lucky to become part of us, part of the Norwood clan. But the truth of the matter is that WE were the lucky ones, that he came into our lives and stayed, if only for a short while. He intertwined himself into our lives, into the very fabric of our hearts. James gave himself to us wholeheartedly and added us to his list of people he loved and cared for and would give to so unselfishly. James had a way of doing that, giving so freely of his time and love, never thinking about being overburdened.
I knew that James was going to make a great father by the way he was so enthralled with our Erin the day she was born. We had all piled into Paige and Matt's house when we knew that she was in labor and James was assigned the duty of keeping the stopwatch, timing each contraction so that we would know when to leave for the hospital. To be included in such an important family event pleased him to no end. That afternoon, standing in Paige's hospital room, James held Erin for the first time and was enchanted, as we all were. I will never forget the look in his eyes. Gabe shared with me after James' death, that when he was a young man and people would ask what he wanted to be as an adult, his answer was "a good father and husband." That he was. I was privileged to be at both Olivia's and Carson's births and I can't tell you how excited he was about being a father. How will we ever be able to convey to them the depths of their father's love for them and what a wonderful person he was? I am grateful for the way that James loved my daughter unconditionally. I am grateful that he had the experience of being both a husband and a father. I thank God everyday that he was our Carson's and Olivia's Daddy and he was everything he wanted to be when he was growing up - a good husband and father.
The day before James funeral, the other son of my heart, Matt, summed up James' life with a quote from the book The Outsiders: "Nothing gold can stay." How appropriate! The bottom line is this: James WAS golden. Golden in every way.
We are James' family, the one that adopted him, the one that he chose to be a part of. He CHOSE to be a part of. How lucky we are to have had him in our lives. The TRUTH is James made us ALL better people, a better family. We miss him - his smile, his wicked sense of humor, his goodness, his kindness, his example, his faith, his love of God and country, his willingness to love and be loved, his ability to share himself with us all. We love him; we always will. He is, and will forever remain, our James.