I wrote the story about Wayne eight or nine years ago, maybe longer. I don't really remember when I wrote it to tell you the truth. I wrote it in response to a young lady who was a member of a Medal of Honor online gaming clan who posted a request for prayer on our clan forums. Her fiance had just been killed in a car accident and she was devastated. The story was originally addressed to her. Shannon was her name. For the most part that was the end of it until October 19th, five years ago. That was when I got the urge to post it on my FMCA blog. Which I did, one afternoon just before before Diane and I left for a local church event.
The next day I wrote the following:
It's funny how things work out sometimes..
Twenty Five Years Ago, This Month
As of last night there is a definite connection between being a coach owner and what happened twenty five years ago. Twenty five years ago the 24th of this month to be exact.
A week or so ago Janis and Gary our twin coach owners invited us to a special event at their church. It is a walk through play called Judgment House. This is a nationally sponsored play that takes place in many churches around the nation, but the subject of the play usually is based on some local tragic event. This event is used to illustrate and dramatize the final consequences of the choices, some good and some bad, that people make. We agreed to attend one of the performances. I did not know much of anything about this play until the day we went, yesterday, last night to be exact.
The subject of this drama was a bit of a shock to me.
The play was called the Arlene Jones Story.
This was the same Arlene that was my friend Wayne's girlfriend and fiance.
Not knowing what to expect, I was not sure I could watch it all. I decided, since I try not to believe in coincidences, that for some reason, it was meant for me to see this play. I made up my mind, took a deep breath, and drove us to the church where we were met by Gary in the parking lot at about 4:45 in the afternoon. He took us into the staging area, the church gymnasium, and it was packed. I had heard that due to a wave of word of mouth that as many as 1400 to 1500 people were waiting to see the performance each night.
I didn't think anybody even remembered the event. I had tried to forget it. But here I was, standing in line and a few minutes later, sitting in the middle of a church gym, feeling a bit uncomfortable, waiting with Diane and Gary in a crowd of chatting people, none of whom I knew at all, for our names to be called and then to observe a reenactment of what I thought was a completely senseless, and meaningless event. An event that cost me a good friend and, my first business.
After a few minutes of just sitting there, with my left leg bouncing nervously, I began to feel uncomfortable, a lot. I started looking for the closest exit..just in case I needed it.
We had some time to wait, so Diane and Gary got up to buy some popcorn at a concession stand in the back of the gym. This was the perfect time for me to make a dash for it. To leave this play before the memories that might come flooding back caused me to squirm, over heat, be ill, maybe even throw up or worse yet have a big nasty panic attack (and I have had them before), which would really make me do all the above.
I didn't leave; instead I got up and moved to the back row. I sat down next to a man a bit younger than myself, with a name tag on, who was engaged in a rather animated conversation, and waited for a chance to introduce myself.
While standing in line to sign up for the play I had overheard a conversation between one of the staffers and one of the attendees. From that conversation I learned that the son of Arlene was sitting in the back of the gym. His name was OC and now I was sitting next to him.
It became apparent that, reluctantly for him, he was now a bit of a church celebrity. Ladies of the church both young and old kept coming up and introducing themselves. I patiently waited for a chance to tell him who I was.
He turned to me. I put out my hand and told him that I was Derrick Parker, that I knew his mother and that Wayne had worked with me. He looked very surprised. We, with some two or three interruptions, had a short but extremely important conversation. Details that I had heard over the years, some big, some not, were verified, some corrected. I told OC things he didn't know and he did the same for me.
I learned that the killer only killed himself after accidentally wounding himself with his own ricochet bullets from the fireplace in the living room. Once he knew he could not catch the boys, and escape from the scene, he finished himself off. OC learned that I had seen his Mom just a few days before at the trade show, and that I had tried to get Wayne to bring her to dinner on the night that they were both killed. His response was it just wasn't in the cards for them to live.
I think then I realized that we both had been hurt, were still hurting...a lot more than we, or maybe just me, knew.
OC told me that he would still be there after I went through the play and to come see him if I wanted to talk some more. I responded "okay".
I wasn't sure that I would talk to him again. I wasn't sure I could even make it through the play.
But I did.
I don't think I can describe it that well for you. If I was an official theater critic, I could tell you that the play was a bit amateurish at times. I could tell you the concept of walking from room to room and seeing various scenes of Arlene's life and death play out, even the graphic ones, were interesting and effective, but for me it was not at all about how well the scenery and props looked or how well the actors performed. For me it was about something going on inside of me.
I was watching the play, but I was also somewhere else at the same time. I was back in my office on the last day that I saw Wayne alive, or I was back in my kitchen when I got the terrible phone call, or I was in my car, miserably driving to an appointment that Wayne should have been keeping.
At the end of the play is a scene of Heaven and of Hell. I remembered my own private hell that I was in after Wayne's death and it was then I realized I had never really left it.
I also realized the loss of Mike had only made it worse.
I walked out of the last room, the last scene of the play and while my wife waited in the car, I went to find OC.
I found him standing along the side of the gym, up against the wall, surrounded by a bunch of young ladies. Once again I waited patiently for a chance to speak to him.
"What did you think?" he asked.
"I think your Mother and Wayne would both have approved" I responded. "They would have appreciated some good coming out of that night."
And then I said something I didn't mean to say.
"Because Lord knows I haven't seen any good before now"
OC looked hard at me, and then leaned in closer.
"I haven't either, not for twenty five years, not until this week."
Then I told him about losing Mike. That this was my second time losing a friend and partner.
Then he wrapped his arms around me and said "Maybe this will give you some closure. It finally has, for me."
He was only fifteen when he lost his Mom and the man that would have become his step father. He loved them both. Years before that he lost his father and yet now he could hug me and hope that I would finally be healed of my hurt. His concern for me broke my heart.
He let go. I stood there with tears in my eyes. I could hardly speak but I managed to give him my card and said I would like to keep in touch.
"That would be great, how about we go to lunch and just talk sometime? Would you like that?"
"Oh yea, I really would."
Then he was once again surrounded by others and I quietly walked to the car. I asked Diane to drive us to dinner, where we had a quiet conversation over soup and sandwich. I hate to admit it to my Baptist friends but I really wanted a beer.
It was during dinner and over a short draft, that I realized a long string of events had led up to this moment. It started with a purchase of a Bounder that had a simple brake failure that led to a test drive that led to buying a particular coach, that led to a nice married couple contacting us with questions about the same coach, which led to a friendship that helped with one recent loss, and now...
Now I realized that God had orchestrated something bigger; he used my RV and the RV world to provide the means to have many friends, but two in particular named Gary and Janis who without knowing it, were used by Him to open a scarred over twenty five year old wound that had never really had the chance to heal....until now.
Now faith renews and the healing begins.