Friday, October 06, 2006

For Wayne

While in the process of closing an old email account I've had on Yahoo since 1998, I came across the following email that I had saved. It was dated Oct. 18, 1999, and is a copy of one I had written to my friend Wayne's email account...less than a week after he had been killed.

Wayne was an example of the kind of man I can only hope to be. We had become fast friends while I worked in a national organization's office here in Nebraska for which he served on the board of directors while residing in Ohio. We had travelled to various seminars and conferences together across the country, and while he was 20 years my senior you'd have never known it. A consumate Cleveland sports fan, he also loved his Ohio State Buckeyes. On one Monday after he'd spent the weekend in town at a BOD meeting I arrived at my desk that morning to find a neatly folded OSU football t-shirt on my keyboard. I joked that it would make a great waxing rag for my car and promptly had a Nebraska Cornhuskers red winter stocking cap delivered to him for "those cold Ohio winters that come after yet another disappointed Buckeye season". After Wayne's death I wore that shirt to honor him until it became so threadbare it fell apart. And as Wayne could tell you...I hate Ohio State. And the metallic Cleveland Browns Christmas tree ornament that Jane and Brenda gave to me the next year is, to this day, a permanent fixture on our tree.

He was flying in for a few days before leaving for Australia for a two week competition for which he was the American national team's coach. He was excited and I'd never known him to be so happy. He had emailed me the day before with his flight information and I was so excited to surprise him with my Cornhusker gifts I went the following day to meet his flight. He never stepped off. He never would. I was to learn that while driving home on the busy Cleveland expressway his van had been clipped in the right rear bumper by a young girl in a sportscar...driving too fast and talking on her cell phone...and with no insurance. In one of those freak things that happens, it was enough to cause his rear axel to snap and his van careened out of control, flipping over several times and killing him. He left behind a loving wife, a son and daughter from his first marriage, a step-daughter, and more friends than many. Two years after his death, his son had a son named Zachary Wayne in his grandfather's honor.

And so tonight while cleaning out an old inbox I take a trip back seven years...almost to the date...when grief hit me hard. It was not the first time and certainly wasn't the last. I miss him terribly to this day, yet thinking of him never ceases to bring a smile to my face while a tear wells up in my eye. My wife and 3.5 year old son came home that night to find me sitting alone in the dark on our patio, rocking back in forth in a patio chair and weeping fiercely. Nolan seemed to understand instantly that daddy was sad, and said nothing while just holding my hand as we both looked up at the stars and the moon in the sky...looking for Wayne.

October 18, 1999

Dear Wayne,

I awaited your arrival
last Friday at the airport here in Lincoln as was disappointed when you didn't step off the plane. I was wearing the Ohio State t-shirt you gave me last year under my Husker sweatshirt of course, and holding a gift for you to read on your flight to Australia, the new book by Tom Osborne - Faith in the Game.

The clerk told me you were not on the flight and it showed the reservation had been cancelled. I drove home to call Jane and check to be sure all was okay, figuring maybe you'd decided to forego the trip because of the long flight to Australia soon pending.

I was so unprepared for what she told me. She told me you wouldn't be coming... You'd have been so proud of her Wayne. Where I should have been lifting her up in her time of need, she lifted me up. Such strength!

Wayne, I'll never forget you. Whenever I see an Indians or a Buckeyes score, or especially one from your Beloved Browns, my thoughts will turn to you and I'll smile. Of course, those won't be the only things that turn my thoughts to you and what you meant to all of us...

Godspeed Wayne. Save me a seat next to you in Heaven where we can watch an Indians-Red Sox game and enjoy peanuts and each other's company. That's a day I'll be looking forward to!

I love you Wayne and I'll miss you.


At 8:38 AM, Blogger forget me not said...

He must have been a wondrous person to have left such an indelible mark in your life. Sorry for your loss, and glad you have shared your feelings for this person. Pray for us Wayne.


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