September 1, 2002 was the fist time I watched a loved one slip from this world and into the Next. I had never stood between those two Worlds before. I was 22 and hiking in North Carolina with a dear group of friends who had become like family through the years. One moment we were standing at the top of a waterfall, the next we were huddled over the broken shell of our brother who had fallen nearly 100 feet to his death. Tears. Shock. 911. EMTs. A stretcher. A long hike back up the mountain. An even longer drive to a cold hospital. Unbearable phone calls to family and loved ones. Disbelief. Grief.
That was exactly fifteen years ago.
There were so many qualities my college-aged self admired about Clint.
We all did.
The way he loved to have fun.
The way he loved to laugh, to sing, to adventure.The way he loved to go barefoot. The way his presence would light up a room and make everyone feel welcomed; included. And the way his character would inspire others to love more fully and more freely. I remember watching him swim in the ocean one day, totally alone and totally thrilled and thrashing about in the waves. He loved Creation and he loved it’s Creator. It somehow seems fitting that Clint entered Eternity while enjoying nature. I often dream about the unimaginable marvels he now enjoys in the World that awaits us.
I remember him now, 15 years later, not as a college student, but as a mother with sons of my own. And somehow, this makes his memory richer, deeper, alive. I could appreciate him through the eyes of a friend, but now I can admire him through the eyes of a mother. And doing so makes his character all the more honorable; his laughter all the fuller; his love of life and people and God all the sweeter. When I think of Clint now I smile with gratitude for the privilege of having known someone so remarkable. Someone who truly filled this world with more love and laughter..and less shoes. Someone who helped so many of us experience God and joy and hope and compassion more fully. Even grief. Someone who has made Heaven a little more familiar for me and who no doubt welcomed our dear 5-year old friend last year as a kindred spirit. I would’ve liked my sons to know Clint. They would’ve had a blast. I take comfort in knowing one day they will.
A letter from Clint’s mother weeks after his death:
..At fist, I admit, I thought “Lord, I can not do this. You have asked too much. Now either bring him back or take me too. I cannot….no, I will not live on this earth without my precious boy.” The Father is so patient and kind. I could give you so many accounts of personal miracles of faith and healing of my broken heart. It is a process, though. Not a quick fix, not a cure for my grief, and not a journey to a destination, just a journey…in a circle… Round and round we go, journeying to trust, me struggling to obey, living in the moment, finding joy, knowing His unspeakable peace…I often have the image that I am about four years old, full of questions and I am climbing up in my patient Father’s lap…I take His face in my hands and I whine…’But why Daddy, why Daddy, why do I have to give him up?” The amazing part is that God never tires of holding me close in His grip, loving me, comforting me during these times of sorrow…Mostly, He doesn’t say anything, he just loves me and loves me and loves me.
A message from Clint’s mother today, fifteen years later:
I am living proof of Gods grace… Life isn’t nearly as sweet but my dreams of Heaven are so much better!!! I know I’ll see my sweet boy again. I believe the Lord will look over at him one day and say “Clint, go get your Momma.”
This post is lovingly dedicated to Clint’s mother, Carolyn, who nudged me along in this writing and who has set the most beautiful example of motherhood and intermingled grief and hope these past 15 years.