When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Now cracks a noble heart.
Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest
~Hamlet: Act 5.2. 397-98
We all have some connection to this tragedy. For me, and many of you, it’s
first and foremost the fact that this happened within the small community
in which we live. Mine is also that my wife is an avid runner who will
lace up her shoes and head out to clear her head regularly. She also shares
a birthday with Ahmaud Arbery: May 8th. I, too, have felt the numbing
grief of losing a child. Every year from now on, February 23rd will be
a day of sadness for Ahmaud’s family as July 5th is for mine.
In my little home office/mud room on the top shelf of the coat rack, I
have one of those Plexiglas picture cubes that were so popular in the
’70s. On one side it reads: “SNAP SHOT, a photo cube to display
six of your favorite pictures.” My mom gave it to me years back
when I went to college. She said if things were tough, I could look at
it and remember the good times growing up. There is a picture of me around
six years old, holding my guinea pig, Sunny, on Christmas morning. Another
one shows me on stage at the St. Simons Elementary 5th grade play, The
Tortoise and the Hare. I can still remember my song, “I’m
a Hare, I’m a runner, I’m as fast as I can be. I speed and
spurt and whisk along as anyone can see! I burn out peelin’ wheelies
even radar can’t catch me . . . I’m a hare I’m a runner
I’m as fast as I can be.”
Then there are three more pictures. One, slightly blurry, of me standing
on the bow of our 18-foot dual console Forecast out in the river. I loved
that boat. The second picture, a young beautiful woman with strawberry
blonde hair, my mother, sits under a pine tree with my cousin in her lap.
The last picture is my favorite. I think it was my eight-year-old birthday
party. It is the group shot. We were tired, dirty, wet, and happy. Popsicle
juice ran down our necks as we assembled in the hammock. A few of those
faces still live in the community. I see a young Peter Bufkin with that
devilish grin, probably on his 4th popsicle; Jon Kent, always with that
smile on his face; my buddy, John Butler, and a young Manning Rountree
who, even at eight years old, was the smartest guy I ever met.
So, why do I bring up the past? Why do I go on and on about the picture
cube? Well, that’s the final connection. Those last pictures were
all taken at my grandparent’s house at Satilla Shores. That house—the
sprawling yard, the dock, the boathouse, the streets where I rode my go-kart—were
my happy places growing up. Now when I look at that picture cube, when
I think about those memories, I remember those events overlaid with the
present tragedy, and I am sad. I am sad for our community. I am sad because
I have this image in my head that if my grandfather, Wyllie O’Quinn,
had seen Ahmaud running down the road, he wouldn’t have seen a threat
but rather a man who looked like he needed a cold drink. I think he would’ve
offered him one of his cold Coca-Colas, the ones in the glass bottles
that he kept in the garage fridge. Probably within five minutes of talking
to him, my grandfather would’ve made some connection to his family.
They may have sat on the porch a spell.
For those of you who may need a little motivation to get out of your house
and get your body moving, I’ve got three great incentives:
- Run because exercise is good for you.
- Run to clear your head.
- Run to remember Ahmaud Arbery.
Ya’ll have heard me talk about Chuck Reece of the Bitter Southerner
in my previous blog about podcasts. I find his voice soothing and his
words uplifting in what has become a weary world. So I end this blog with
his words as I can say it no better:
“Hug more necks,
Abide no hatred,
And spend your time doing what you love with whom you love.”