Sitting comfortably in my First Class seat from Charlotte, NC on my my way to Lawton, Oklahoma via Dallas, Texas. Comfortable, but anxious, like the kind before going on stage or on a first date or racing toward an unknown trail. Mind and heart racing and wishing I could add thrust power to this Boeing 757. High above the clouds that canopy a huge Winter storm sweeping the midwest and waltzing her way toward my Carolina. I gaze from my window seat across the sun-drenched sky around me. I look down at the clouds below, knowing that the earth underneath is gray and cold and wet. Above the storm and hoping she is kind as we soon descend through her on our way to the place I belong over these days of giving thanks.
He was the greatest little boy. Logan Ted Keyser. Born on the fourteenth day of April, one day after my own. God’s additional reminder of the beauty of life’s circle.
Chelsea was born only days after Dad’s passing. He held her in his arms before leaving us too soon. Her birth brought joy where sadness was so overwhelming. To this very day she represents what is possible, not what is lost. Then, two years later this little guy would add his own serendipity.
My birthday was destined to be melancholy. Dad died on April 12. With my birthday on the 13th of the same month, how could it not be a sad time? Well, there was a plan…Logan arrived on the 14th. Again, where there is loss, there is joy. A yearly reminder of life’s precious cadence.
My little man graduates from Basic Training tomorrow morning. His own destiny revealed. He grew up a cheerful spirit. A peacemaker of the most extraordinary kind. Playful and curious. His hope for reconciliation in a broken home was always trumped by his love for us individually. Always the one to want the best for us–whatever that meant. Always the most encouraging and affirming.
His dad, an athlete and a bit of an artist. Logan sought his own way through the things he wanted and the things we wanted for him. Good at everything…great at few (according to him, at the time–I happened to think he was perfect). Then, as he moved into high school he found his own groove. Wrestling and guitar and theater. His curiosity turned to passion. He took a stage, never seeking applause, but hoping to express and share his gifts. Teachable. Inventive. Authentic. Loving.
Five years ago, on a visit to Charlotte he said, “Dad, I think I’m interested in medicine and nursing.” Well, he was in the right place to find out. I put him on a three-day scavenger hunt with physician and nursing leaders in one of my hospitals. They took him in and offered their guidance. He saw what happens in these places of healing. The mix of science and art. From invasive surgery with instruments and gasses and protocols to the compassionate enveloping hands around a little life born too early in the NICU. He came home day 3 and said, “That’s what I wanna do.”
He did. A graduate of Belmont University’s nursing program–one of the most respected in the land. It was all a part of his master plan.
He would not only use his unique mix of compassion and precision in medicine, but serve us all as a soldier. He raced to his dual calling with determination that inspires me to this moment.
As I watched the van drive from the parking lot of his swearing-in ceremony, September 17th, I cried and cheered at the same time. He waved through the window and nodded at me as if to say, “It’s okay, Dad…I’ll make you proud.” He already knew that from the moment I brushed my hand across his little newborn bald head that I was the proudest man alive…its never changed.
In a matter of hours I will see him in his Army uniform. Prepared and fresh. Proud and strong. A natural leader of men and all people. A servant for a country and to anyone in need. In a matter of hours we will hear his stories of Basic and meet his new family of “battle buddies.” We will relish every moment as they will be fewer and fewer from this day. I will give thanks on Thursday for so much, but especially for the gifts of Logan and Chelsea and for the rich life they bring to this planet.
Logan didn’t get to meet my dad, but their soldier connection is something they will both smile on. I know Dad will fly air cover for his grandson for the years to come.
Now, as we descend through this storm and head for earth, I pray for his safety, for the ability to stay above the storms, and also for a soft landing from those he must go through.
You are my hero, Logan.