I told Tammy today that today was the last time I would use the phrase "I wish it was this time last year" for a long time. We had a family dinner with James last January 14th. God closed out any opportunity of doing anything with friends that night. Everyone had something else to do, so he was stuck here at home with us. He was planning to go to Drew's later and spend the night, but we convinced him to stay the night here. We grilled steaks, and had a great visit over dinner. We watched a show on the Military Channel that covered the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom, and it listed many of the locations in the 'Stans I had the occasion to visit during my time spent over there, and we talked about these. Then James convinced us to watch Anchorman with him. He listed it as his favorite movie on his Facebook profile. It was just plain silly in spots, and didn't make a lot of sense, much like a 17 year old at times. It was a great night. We called it a night after the movie, but, from the look of James' facebook page, he stayed up a good bit later, and made plans for the following evening.
How things have changed since that night. There's an obvious void in our family's lives and the lives of James' friends. There's a hurt that I'm not sure will ever go away. Saying that, there's also a feeling of James' presence in so many things. James invested in others, and that investment continues to grow. Sam's Club has been gracious enough to allow us to sell hamburgers and hot dogs through the month of January to raise money for scholarships. They were a big part of last year's Diving for James fundraising effort, and many have returned this year to help us with this. Tammy and I have been blessed these past two weeks to have countless people come up and tell us how James impacted their lives and we've had the opportunity to share James' story with many who haven't heard it. We shared with a couple from Canada. We spoke with a young man who shared with us that he was an air traffic controller during the search, and they kept a 10 mile radius closed to all but search efforts. I had the occasion to bump into three pararescue jumpers or PJs from Moody this week and thank them for their help. I spoke with their commander, and he said that of all of the rescue efforts they've been involved in, none has been as personal as the search for James. The father of one of the state patrol divers from Ashburn stopped by today and he wanted to thank the community for all they did to support his son. He said his son couldn't get over how the community responded. Maybe the most touching story this weekend came from the mother of one of James' friends. She said they prepared shoeboxes as part of the shoebox ministry started by Franklin Graham. She said her daughter wanted to wrap some of the shoeboxes in honor of James because of the impact he had, so they wrapped several of the boxes in black and gold paper, and put the number 23 in the corner of the box.
James left a void, but his legacy is inspiring others to fill it, to share their faith, to be bold like James. I haven't watched Anchorman since that night a year ago, but it was odd as I flipped back through some Facebook posts tonight that someone said they were watching A Walk to Remember. That's kind of what I've been doing this past year. James' walk was one to remember, and I'm reminded daily how I need to work to walk like James did to have the faith he did. I do wish it was this time last year. I love you and miss you James.