We were heading home in Craig’s red Jeep after a long day of attending classes at the university, expecting to arrive home by two a.m. At midnight we stopped on the shoulder of I20 just outside of Fort Worth so Craig could check something under the hood.
At that hour, the interstate was pretty quiet. A beat-up sedan pulled up behind us and a young man climbed out. He was barefoot and shirtless. His jeans were too big and he wore no belt so he held them up with one hand. Inside the car, at least six other young men and women lay tangled together motionless.
He weaved his way toward us.
“Y’all need any help?” he drawled.
“No thanks,” Craig said, “We’re fine.” And he slammed the hood down.
“Are you sure? Looks like y’all might be havin’ some trouble.”
Then he looked down, surveying himself, and said, “I’m sorry I look so bad.”
The six other people in his car stared at us with glassy eyes.
“We’re ok,” Craig said. “We were just leaving.”
“Where are y’all headed,” he inquired.
Don’t tell him. Don’t tell him. Don’t tell him, I prayed.
“Um…, back home” Craig said.
He peered into Craig’s face.
“What’s your name.”
“Um…,” my friend said again.
You’re CRAIG! Aren’t you?”
The boy put out his hand.
“You remember me? You once SAVED MY LIFE!”
It turns out that a few years before, when he was a teen, Craig had counseled him, guiding him past his suicidal ideation. Admittedly, the boy might have needed to work through a few more issues, but at least he was alive.
In fact, countless people are still alive because of Craig’s work.
Craig slipped into a redneck vernacular to converse with his new/old friend.
“Oh, hell, we’re fine. There’s nothin’ wrong with this Jeep. I was just checking the oil.”
Then the guy peered over at me and said, “Do I know you, too?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You might,” Craig said helpfully. David is a chaplain for Hospice.”
This time he reached out to shake my hand.
“I thought I recognized you! You came to our house when my grandmother was dying. You remember?”
“Sure!” I lied. “How is everyone in your family…?”
After a few minutes of chitchat, he got back into his car with his still motionless comrades. We got back into the Jeep and headed for home.
“Do you remember him?” Craig asked.
“Nope,” I said.
We crossed paths with many people in our respective jobs. Those were intense years and I worked hard every day, sometimes visiting people until late at night. A lot of it is a blur in my memory now. One of the reasons I write is to remember more clearly.
But sometimes all I remember is the blur.