What do you say when you hear a friend has died? What can you say?
How do you dare mourn, or express your own sadness, knowing there's a wife, children, mother, sisters, nieces and more, tied by blood and longer memories than you have to your friend, whose pain you know has got to be so much worse than this ache you feel in your heart, even though you're mourning not just for your own loss but for theirs as well?
Mostly for theirs...
I have typed words. Then deleted them. Then typed them again.
This has been a dark day, literally and figuratively. It's truly night now, but looking back over this day, I can't remember sunshine, can't remember anything but winter's heavy gray sky, barren and dry and cold.
Sunshine would have been wasted on me, anyway; I learned first thing this morning that a bright light on this earth had gone out, and no amount of sunlight could have brightened the day for me.
There are some people who are so full of life, who live it so fearlessly and joyfully, who have so much positive energy, that you easily imagine them invincible. Or maybe it's just impossible to imagine a world without them in it somewhere.
My friend Carl was that kind of person, and the news this morning that he was gone, killed in a plane crash ... well, it still doesn't seem possible.
There aren't any right words.
My heart breaks for his wife and their kids, for his mom, sisters, nieces ... theirs is a close-knit family. One thing's for certain, though: they knew Carl loved them. He made sure they knew it.
He lived a life without fear, a life full of love, a life following his passion and encouraging everyone around him to follow theirs. I truly believe he lived each day as if it were his last, not wanting to waste a single minute worrying over something he couldn't control but wanting to do everything within his power that he could, not wanting to have any regrets.
He did nothing halfway.
His faith, his energy, his smile were contagious. From what I could tell, he always saw the positive side of things, was always ready to lift you up if he noticed you scowling or frowning or getting discouraged. And he was always ready to step in and help someone, no matter how big the project; he could easily rally troops to help with the twinkle in his eye, his gift of gab, and sense of humor.
I'm grateful our families were led to this same small community years ago; grateful that our lives became so tightly interwoven with theirs through scouts, church, school, community; grateful that those bonds have held tight.
I'm mostly grateful that Tom and I were able to see Carl just a few weeks ago, sharing several hours of music, dancing and laughter with him and Rachel at their annual Christmas party.
Lots and lots of music, dancing and laughter.
I'm so grateful for this photo.
Carl impacted our community in many ways - organizing the Young Eagles program out here (thanks to him, my kids and I got to experience flying small planes); helping to create a Youth Foundation and youth center; chairing our church Octoberfest and tripling the proceeds of previous years with his big ideas, like raffling Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Carl was a big thinker, and encouraged everyone around him to think big, too.
When Tom stepped down as Scoutmaster, needing to focus on building our house, Carl stepped up to take over as leader and helped guide many boys, including our own, to the Eagle rank. (Did I mention Carl was an Eagle Scout?)
As treasurer of the troop, I witnessed firsthand how much the troop and Boy Scouts meant to him.
I doubt if any of us who knew him realize even half the impact he made in this world ... but some of that impact was evident in posts I read on Facebook today...
...My heart is broken by this news. Carl was such a great guy, and my heart hurts for Rachel and the kids. I will never forget him taking the cubscouts up for flying eagles. His involvement with Scouts and his generosity will be sadly missed. :(
...He was an amazing man. He was the troopmaster that led many young men to achieve their Eagle scout rank. These boys are now phenomenal young men. Thanks Carl
...God bless you Carl. He too led our son Bobby to become an Eagle Scout. Bobby is now a Corpsman in the US Navy. We pray for God's comfort for Rachel and family.
...he was so full of life and always full of surprises! He will be so missed!
...Rachel, I am so sorry to hear about Carl. He is the most amazing man who would sacrifice for anyone. The bench at the elementary school in the car rider line is there because Carl would do anything to help anyone. At a moment's notice he brought out his backhoe and helped us get that heavy bench delivered to the playground (donated by Troop 847). I never thought we could get it done, but he made it happen, because that's what he did! I'll never forget a phone call he made to me when I was having a problem, he touched my heart, because that is what he did! Much love, peace & prayers to you and your family! God bless!
But this one that tugs most at my heart, and for me, sums it up the best:
The old Irishman has flown to see his God.
Thank you Dad for all you ever were.
Please join me in praying for solace for Carl's family as they face this huge loss in their lives, that they are always able to feel the warmth of Carl's smile, because I know it will continue to shine down on them.
Tommy and Graham's Eagle Court of Honor
With his mom, aunt and sisters, December '09
Rachel and Carl with Kirby at her graduation Dec. 09
Rest in peace, Carl.
"The old Irishman has flown to see his God."