Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Twice a day, at least, and sometimes several times a day, I drove past the empty mobile home on the highway-side of our long, private road, and tried not to look. The sight of that long strip of yellow crime scene tape, tucked haphazardly within the branches of a never-pruned bush, would tip me off that I was nearing the scene. I'd catch the flicker of a loosened edge of tape, dancing in obedience to a passing breeze, and I'd look to the other side of the road, and try hard not to think of all the sadness that had played itself out on that parcel of acreage.

Three deaths had occurred there; three deaths in about that many years. The first had been a drug overdose. The second was an accidental homicide, which happened when an estranged ex-husband showed up with a gun, threatened his ex-wife, and shot her new boyfriend. The boyfriend lived. The ex-husband died when his 14-year old son, trying to defend his mother, picked up a two-by-four and hit him over the back of the head.

My husband brought groceries to the family and spent a half-hour trying to comfort a group of people who showed no interest in comfort. "I'm glad he's dead," one said, and the rest agreed. Though I can't imagine the boy escaping regret for the whole of his life, he showed no remorse on that afternoon when Dave sat ready to point the way to forgiveness.

We tried to reach out again, not long after, when Dave spotted the owner of the property, J.D., out near the mailbox. J.D. lived in a travel trailer off to the side of the mobile home, which he had rented to the other family. We'd just returned from the grocery store and had a box of donuts in a bag between us. Dave handed the donuts to J.D., chatted with him a bit, and then suggested that they get together for coffee.

"I might like to do that, Pastor," J.D. said. Dave left our number and told the quiet man to call anytime.

But coffee never happened. A week turns into a month pretty quickly, and months slip by before you catch what's happening. Once in awhile, one of us would mention J.D. and the coffee idea would resurface. But before it could come to life, J.D. was gone. One night, after several drinks with his live-in girlfriend, J.D. fell asleep ... and she shot him.

Three deaths; three long yellow strips of crime scene tape. I was sick of the sight. But one afternoon, before I realized what I was doing, I stopped my car directly in front of that unpruned bush. Reaching into the branches, I pulled out a section of that tape and tore it away, then brought it home and tacked it to the bulletin board above my writing desk.

We don't know the number of our days. We only know that we have this hour, this minute, this second. I don't want to forget the frailty of breath. I want no regrets.

Next to that strip of yellow tape I've posted a favorite quote. Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us.

Today, I want to sing.


8 Comment:

At 1/16/2008 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Shannon, this echoes what a friend and I were discussing just last week. Life is always shorter than we expect.

Thanks for this powerful message. Your writing always hits its mark.

At 1/16/2008 10:17 AM, Blogger Sharon had this to say ...

Sobering post Shannon.And a reminder to"sing!"Sing as if our life depended upon it!

At 1/16/2008 12:59 PM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

Wow! What a powerful post. I really like the quote at the end.

At 1/16/2008 4:27 PM, Blogger Zing had this to say ...

This made me cry. Life is so short what do people do without the Lord? I guess they are lost and without a song in their heart. Thank you for sharing.


At 1/17/2008 9:06 AM, Blogger Cora had this to say ...

Shannon, what a wonderful post! You made me cry, again! As Linda asked, what do people do without the Lord? It's mind boggling. How sad and lonely they must be. And how silent to not have that song in their heart. I'm with you. Let's sing our hearts out!

At 1/17/2008 9:25 AM, Blogger Shannon had this to say ...

Hello Bonnie! Nice to hear from you. Yes, I think we'd live more mindfully if we kept that truth in view. What if today were the last day?

Hi Sharon! How've you been? It's been quiet in Shiloh Garden, hasn't it? But that can be a good thing.

I've always like that quote, too, Kim. It's been attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, but when I researched it to include it in my second book, I couldn't pin it down to him. I don't think he was the one who said it, but neither could I find the rightful author.

Hi Linda! How are things in Alaska? I so agree with you. I really don't know what keeps people who don't know the Lord walking through their day. I'm so glad for hope.

Can't wait to hear you sing, Cora. :)

At 1/19/2008 9:07 PM, Blogger Ann V.@HolyExperience had this to say ...

How God winds the stories of our days into a seamless piece. This post following that of Roby Duke's, a man who certainly did not go to his grave with the music inside of him. He sang. And with such aching passion. The juxtapostion of these two posts, so striking.

Truly, Shannon, you co-labor with God to create a space here with words that ministers to me in the deep, tender spots.

My humble gratitude...
All's grace,

At 1/20/2008 12:05 PM, Blogger Jo had this to say ...

I feel quieted and subdued after reading your post... I needed to be reminded of just what the Lord has done in my life and that I can be doing more to reach out to others. Thank you for the gentle reminder, and you've a delightful blog, by the way!
- Jo


Post a Comment

Thank you for your kind, loving comment. Um ... you were kind and loving, weren't you?

Back to the home page...