Even after all these years, writing this letter seems surreal. Ten years ago today you stepped into Eternity. I’ll never forget being up early with Tusk, being the handful of a little puppy he was, at Sarah’s house in Little Rock and getting Mom’s phone call. It was well before 6 a.m., we had a house full of girls who were on their way home from the funeral of their pledge sister’s mother. I was sitting in the floor of the kitchen playing with Tusk, longing to be back asleep in my bed. My phone rang and it was Mom, which I thought was weird so early in the morning. I answered the phone as I have a thousand times before. But this call was different than any other call I’ve ever received. She was crying, there was more pain in her voice than I’d ever heard.
She just kept saying, “he’s gone.” I don’t know if it was the stupor of the early morning hour, or the haze of life at the time, but I had completely forgotten you all were in Georgia on vacation. I had missed the call from you all the night before letting me know you had arrived safely. That’s just one of my many regrets-not taking that last call from you, just one more chance to hear your voice. I don’t remember a lot of details from the call other than you had a heart attack and as she kept saying, you were gone. We talked countless other times that day with details unfolding, decisions to be made and siblings to contact.
There was some crazy law in Georgia that you could not take a deceased body across state lines for a certain period of time, with Mom stranded in Georgia all alone the only option was to have you cremated to get you both home as soon as possible. I never saw your body again. The last day I saw you was November 23, 2006. It was Thanksgiving. I left that night to get home to Little Rock so that I could go to the Arkansas/LSU game with my friends the next day. Just another decision I regret. If I had only known it would be the last time we’d be together on this Earth, I would have stayed forever. LSU won that game 31-26.
Mom flew home to Little Rock as soon as possible. She stepped off the plane carrying your remains in a small box. She had a hell of a time getting those on the plane. They had the nerve to tell her at first she would have to check “them.” But you know Mom, I’ll be damned if she is told what to do when she has already made up her mind. We left for Bella Vista as soon as she touched down. Just me and Mom, and your remains, oh and Tusk of course. It was the longest, quietest, most painful drive ever. So many words unspoken, the grief was so thick in the air I swear it would have taken a sword to cut through.
Getting home was brutal. Everything was as you all had left it. It never felt like home again. Your memories were so strong there and yet it just made it more obvious you were gone. The next few days are a blur. We planned your funeral around the kitchen table, you would have been pleased I think with some of your closest friends speaking and some of your favorite singers singing…and of course, “Off We Go” played. We buried your remains in the wall at the National Cemetery. You would have been tickled pink by your Honor Guard salute. It was so cold and windy, but sunny thankfully. We were all there, all your children and Mom. So many friends joined us, we would have never made it without them all.
The days, weeks and months that followed that first year were so hard. So many memories, so many firsts, so much pain and heartache, so much emptiness and so much grief. But we carried on, together.
You’d be so proud of Mom. She has walked through this loss with the strength of gods, the courage of valiant soldiers and the resolve of the greatest fighters. She’s the CEO of the health center back in El Dorado now. I’m not sure what you’d think about the location, but you always wanted her to achieve that dream and she has done so with so much beauty. Life has been a roller coaster for us all since you left. I finally got married to a man that you would be honored to call your son in law. I’m not sure you would ever have approved of him, but then again, you would never have approved of anyone for me. He’s an incredible man though and has so many of your qualities. Most importantly he loves me unconditionally, just like you always did. And he holds me on days like today when all I can do is cry and grieve, still.
Last December we had a little boy. We named him after you, Judd Franklin Asberry. He’s amazing. He’s beautiful (if you can call a boy beautiful). He has your serious smile, your chin and our eyes. He has my curls. And he has already mastered “the Pierce look.” He’s so funny and so loving. We named him after you with hopes that he will become the type of man you were and mean as much to people as you mean to us. He’s off to a fantastic start.
The old saying goes, “time heals all wounds.” I don’t know who the first person was to say that, but I’d probably slap them in the face if I could. It’s been ten years today since you passed away and the wounds are still there. Sure the scabs have grown over the open wounds, but they never go away. The empty seat is always there. The hole never grows over in our hearts. You were just so much larger than life. You weren’t supposed to die. Not then, not there, not that way, not so soon, maybe not ever.
But you did.
God’s ways really are higher than our ways. It’s hard to imagine what life would have been like if you hadn’t died. But I look back now and I’m so thankful for your life. I’m thankful for your service to our country in the Air Force. I’m thankful that you married my Mom and that I now have her as my very best friend. I’m thankful that you taught me about Jesus and took me to church every time the doors were open. I’m thankful you showed me how to serve others. I’m thankful that you taught me to be giving. I’m thankful that you taught me to be stubborn too, although my husband isn’t as grateful.
As odd as it feels to say, ten years later, I would not wish you back here. You made it to your final destination. You are at rest and in complete peace. You have met your Maker face to face, and I can only imagine the reunion that was. I know today you are worshipping your Savior in Heaven with no thoughts of Earth, and that’s how it is supposed to be. You are reunited with your friends who had gone before, your brothers, your sister, your Mom and Dad and your daughter Vickie joined you this year. With each passing year I’m reminded that this is not our home and I am so thankful for the Hope that reminds me that one day we will be reunited again.
I miss you Daddy, it hurts still, the tears still fall. But God is good and He has been faithful, and will continue to be.
We love you so much!
Love, your baby girl