On October 16th, 2011 at 4:30 AM my doorbell rang. Gideon, my 7 year old German Shepherd, was the first to greet the two men at the door with his hackles up and a fierce bark that let everyone in the house know that something was out of the ordinary. Knowing that Gideon only goes crazy like this when there is someone along the perimeter of our house I was quick to jump out of bed and handle whatever situation was about to present itself. However, I wasn’t ready for this.
On the front porch, through the window at the side of the door, I could see the on duty police sergeant standing there. I thought at first that maybe my car had been broken into and the sergeant was nice enough to wake me in order to come deal with securing my vehicle and getting it fixed. As I neared the door I could see that there was a second person standing at my front door. The city chaplain.
Still in a haze from being awoke from a deep sleep I was now confused. I knew something horrible had probably happened and that it probably happened to one of the guys at work. I was trying to force myself to wake up quicker and start thinking more clearly. I was confused as to why they couldn’t wait until I arrived to work in the next hour to start my shift for them to tell me the likely horrible news.
The chaplain, a friend of mine, physically escorted me into my house and sat me down on the couch. By this time my wife was coming downstairs and wondering why people were now coming into the house at such an odd hour. The chaplain sat me down on the couch, held my hand and looked me in the eyes. His eyes were teary and he softly said, “I’m so sorry…..your brother Cameron was killed in a car accident last night.”
I was frozen. I just sat there staring at the floor while the chaplain continued to try and provide me with some of the details that were known at the time regarding the accident. Cameron had only been dead for four hours at this point and nobody really knew what had happened. At that point, I didn’t really care. Details or no details my brother was gone.
My next two weeks were a blur. Friends and support began pouring in from all directions. Cameron’s death was a big deal, not only to our family but to our surrounding community. Cameron was appointed by his Seattle University teammates as their Captain and immediately after his death a few of them wereinterviewed by local media and were given a chance to explain to tens of thousands of people how special Cameron was.
Just over two months have now passed and I have watched as friends and family have grieved the loss of a friend, son and brother. There have been moments where I have been angry and want to find Cameron in order to tell him, “You owe it to us to continue to live, to be an uncle to your niece, to be the rock of support you’ve always been for friends and family, to continue to experience the joys and pains of life with us, you owe it to us.” The pain and hurt we are all experiencing, at times, is unbearable.
In the end, Cameron (22 years old) led a rich and full life. Roughly 1,500 people attended his funeral….yes…1,500 people. Cameron died through no fault of his own. From all plausible accounts at this point it appears that after coming home around midnight from a friend’s wedding he swerved to avoid an animal in the roadway, lost control of his vehicle and ran into a tree dying instantly.
I have had a lot of time to reflect on life and have now seen up close and personal the amount of pain left behind when someone so young and depended upon dies without warning. In Cameron’s death I quickly saw how important your life is.
I say all of that to say this…you owe it to your family to live a long and full life. You owe it to them to train and to be the most competent Sheepdog you can be. Often times we forego training (in all areas or just our weak ones) because we get busy with life and to some extent we get lulled into a false sense of reality. The “it won’t happen to me or my family” syndrome at varying levels is something that most all of us struggle with and something we need to avoid.
I will leave you with this; What is the one thing you live for the most? What is the one thing that if conjured up in your mind would cause you to commit all sorts of violence (justified of course) in order to survive a life and death encounter? I’ll tell you what it is for me; my daughter. I owe it to her to train and to become the most proficient protector of my life and hers so that no matter what may come our way I will be around for many years to come in order to raise her, teach her and guide her as a father should.
When I train and things get hard this is my mental image: I’ve been bloodied and beaten. I’ve been knocked down and feel like quitting and just giving up. I look over to see that my daughter is witnessing this. She’s screaming and crying, “Daddy, get up…get up daddy…I need you.” This is all the motivation I need.
Yours is probably different but the end result is the same; a dedication and commitment to training in order to see whatever violence you encounter through until the end so that you can return home to your loved ones and continue to live a long and full life.
As for Cameron, his death was an accident and somewhat out of his control. In due time we will see him again but until then we owe it to each other to ensure to the best of our abilities we will be around for a long, long time.