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This Was a Good Adventure

Six o'clock A.M. The beach. A wave crashes. A birdsong answers. The sky is the blue-gray of just before dawn, the horizon a haze without boundary, no separation of sea and sky yet apparent. But just beginning to break through the gloom are the first blossoms of the sun's glow, bringing with them the promise of warmth. Much-needed warmth, for the air is cold this morning, the breath of four friends turning to vapor as they gather under the shelter of the short wooden pier. They stand, blowing into their hands - unspeaking, but minds at once reaching both backward and forward in time. Backward in remembrance, one cracking a lopsided smirk at some practical joke recalled to mind. Forward in anticipation, another smiling warmly at some future reuniting, unseen and yet guaranteed. The four huddle together, not for shared warmth but with their heads bowed to send a shared prayer heavenward - one of sorrow but also of thanks; entreating for comfort but also rejoicing. For a moment silence rests on the beach, the waves muted, even the birds cease their song in solemn attendance to the words being softly spoken.

All at once the moment of prayer is past, and inexplicably to any observers, they shed their shirts, cast away their shoes, and in the blink of an eye are running headlong for the icy water - in a ragged non-formation but with determination born of respect and admiration. Each utters his own wordless battle cry, equal parts anguish and jubilation, but in all four minds lies the same thought: "This is for you, man," each thinking of the same man; inspiration of the morning's events, though absent from them. The men reach the water; each footfall splashes higher; their cries crescendo; a wave rolls to meet them; they dive. Headfirst they dive into the frigid sea, free from fear, from hesitation, and most importantly, from regret - purposefully reminiscent of the limitless exuberance with which their absent friend has lived his life. As one they rise from beneath the waves, breaking the surface with gasps for the breath they were robbed of seconds before by the arctic water. It has shocked them awake, brought them even more vibrant clarity to the inestimable value of the precious gift of life. They run for the shore with everything they have to give, not to be the one who wins, but to exult in the competition itself - the leader reaching the goal first but never leaving his fellows behind.

Drying off, they grin and speak of their friend; of his adventures and his certain approval of theirs on this cold February morning. The friends (though some, on the occasion of watching them, might call them brothers) tell stories of the varied relationships each have taken part in with him: from colleagues in sport and flight to students in the same; some taught him, others taught by him; one recalls his fearlessness, another his compassion; each and every tale imbued with the abundant love and respect they've been blessed by God to carry for him. After today, none of them will be the same, for each realizes that he has become even closer to their departed friend. With their plunge into the water and their emergence from it, they've taken a tiny version of the journey taken by their friend who, though he fell, is already made new again, and waiting for them to join him from everlasting to everlasting. They go to break their fast together, before joining hundreds of others whose lives have also been touched, who have been left better people for knowing him. The four will hear later from their friend's father what they were hoping all along: that "Jamie would say, 'This was a good adventure.'"


Written in memory of Jamie Fletcher

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