My last post was about the events of Palm Sunday, 2003, the day of the accident. Today is Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011. In 2003, April 17 fell on a Thursday. It was the day of the funeral.
Brandon sat by me on the front row. I wanted it that way. Brandon called me from the hospital after they told him about Duane. He was crying, sobbing. I cried with him. I assured him that I didn't want him to blame himself. It wasn't his fault. It was an accident.
In case there is still anyone who has any doubts, I want it known that I never blamed Brandon. It was an accident, pure and simple. They were not speeding. The speed limit where it happened is 35 mph and they were going about 28 mph, according to the State Police report. They had not been drinking or taking drugs. If they did anything wrong, it was being out too late with too little sleep. They had been working long hours. That night, they had been bowling and then playing hacky sack at a friend's house. 19- and 20-year-olds, hanging out and playing hacky sack. They must have headed home at about 2:00 a.m., because the accident happened at 2:30. A deer ran out in front of them. Brandon meant to hit the brake; he hit the gas. The vehicle hit a tree. Duane wasn't wearing a seat belt.
I heard that the rumor the very next day in Hancock was that we were going to sue. It never occurred to me. They did nothing wrong. My main concern, after my own family, was for Brandon - that his life not be ruined. I didn't want him to live with guilt and regret for the rest of his life, and I was determined to do anything and everything I could to help him. My family helped, too. Chris and Darren went to visit Brandon in the hospital. That was not easy for them, but Brandon and Duane had been friends since they were little boys. I found out about two years after the accident, that every single day, he wished he could have crawled down that long driveway faster so that he could have gotten help faster. He lived with guilt every day. I told him that God didn't want him living like that, and I didn't either.
Brandon was badly hurt - his wrist was smashed and he had broken bones in his leg. I forget how long he was in the hospital, but he had to get permission from the doctor to come to the funeral. The doctor didn't want him to come, but he told him he was leaving. He sat by me and I gave him all the emails to read - all the encouragements, all the things shared by friends. He sat with our family and listened to all the friends share what Duane meant to them, and to the pastor's message. I don't remember the details, and I didn't have a video made, but I know everyone learned how to be sure of eternal life. The place was filled to capacity. Over the days of visitation and the funeral, Duane and the family had about 400 visitors. He had many, many friends. "He was pure love, that kid," said one of them, just last week.
Today, April 17, is also the birthday of a very dear friend of Duane and I. She was Duane's friend before she was mine. We only became close a couple of years ago. We are both convinced that Duane was behind the circumstances of our becoming friends. That is a very long story, indeed! She and Duane used to have spirited discussions about spiritual things. They would argue back and forth and he would be so happy when he would finally prove himself right. I have always felt rather bad that the funeral fell on her birthday, but she has always been thankful for the good times that she had with him and the things that he taught her. She thinks it's just not quite right that now he knows for sure the answers to a lot of questions that they used to discuss!
Palm Sunday. The day that we remember Jesus' triumphant ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. According to Wikipedia, "The symbolism of the donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war. Therefore, a king came riding upon a horse when he was bent on war and rode upon a donkey when he wanted to point out that he was coming in peace. Therefore Jesus' entry to Jerusalem symbolized his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war waging king."
Have you ever seen art work by Akiane, child prodigy? Here is her painting called "Prince of Peace":
I honestly think this is what Jesus looks like. You can see this painting and her other amazing work at http://www.artakiane.com/gallery
I have learned that it is possible, though not always easy, to maintain inner peace, no matter what the outward circumstances are. In fact, I fight very hard to not let anything steal my peace. It is written that