On this date at approximately 2:30pm, I began to receive the first of three phone calls that would change my world. They went something like this:
1st Call: Hey…. do you know where Shelly, John’s wife works?
Asa: No… I don’t know exactly where or the name of the company…. but it’s an agency that looks after developmentally disabled kids.
1st Call: Ok…. (Hang up).
My first impulse, as my heart started racing, was what a strange and unsettling conversation. I began thinking that something is definitely up but I avoid thinking the worst. Why would they call me looking for Shelly? Although John is my partner, I have been away on a special assignment for the last 2 weeks. Maybe he got hurt…. probably in a car accident (I’m hoping) and they just want to let her know he’s okay.
2nd Call: Hey we need to get in touch with Shelly. Do you have a cell number or work number for her?
Asa: No…. what’s going on?
2nd Call: (Silence)…. John is hurt and we need to talk to her.
Asa: How bad is he hurt?
2nd Call: I’m not sure… I gotta go…. Talk to you later.
Now I am getting that feeling of dread. It has got be really bad if they are scrambling to find Shelly. I try not to think the worst. I try to get the last two phone calls out of my spirit and bury my head in reading reports. I can’t shake this feeling though. I’m calm. It’s an unsettling calm though. I go to find a colleague who may have more information. I see that he is on the phone…. deep in conversation. I get an eerie feeling. I walk back to my office. This isn’t good.
3rd Call: Hey…. where are you?
Asa: What do you mean? I’m at the office.
3rd Call: I’m sorry to tell you…. John is dead. He was shot and killed earlier this afternoon.
Asa: (Silence. I go numb. I feel like I’ve been placed in a vacuum. My soul goes blurry…. disoriented). Ok…. thanks.
I leave the office and go out to the back of the building. I break down. I had never felt anguish like that before. Even when my Father had died earlier that year. His death was a surprised but not totally unexpected. An unexpected violent death of someone close to you brings a different dimension. It takes you to a dark place.
I heard someone say recently that God can make something beautiful out of tragedy. I have had to search deep, for a year, to find the beauty in John’s death. I guess for me it’s appreciating my friends and co-workers. It’s easier to see the value in familial relationships. Now, I make the time to sincerely engage with those I work with. Now, I don’t take the moments I spend with my friends for granted. Now, when I say to a friend or co-worker: “stay safe” or “see you later”, it takes on a different significance.
I have also come to realize that the most sacred thing we possess in life…. is life itself. Cherish it. Don’t waste it. Share it with others. Make it count for something.
One year later, I still ache.
See you in heaven brother.
John Charles “Sparky” Atkinson.
Born: 28 May 1968.
Died: 05 May 2006.