March 20, 2013 by Mike
Family is like a chain. It has links, and when a link is broken, the other links are reminded of how important it is to stay connected. Staying connected seems easy when you see people on a regular basis or you dialogue with them on Facebook. That’s not the kind of connection I’m talking about. I mean really connected. I mean connected like knowing what’s going on in people’s lives and walking the hard road with them. I mean connected like telling them exactly how you feel because the awkwardness is worth it. I mean connected like communicating through action the value of the people in your life.
I love etymology, and now and then I will get curious about a word and look it up at the online etymology dictionary. I already knew this one, but it says that the word “eulogy” is from the Greek eulogia. That word comes from eu – “well” and logia – “speaking.” In other words, to be eulogized is to be spoken well of. This understanding of the word begs the question: Why do we wait to speak well of someone until they are dead? Why is a eulogy not given in life, when the people eulogized can hear it and understand the value they have given to the people who love them? I took some time some years ago to send emails to my dad and mom, letting them know some of the sort of things I would say at their funerals. I gave them their eulogy, so to speak. And why not? I told my mom how, in the midst of terrible emotional pain, she had inspired me with the strength to hold herself up and continue to be the mom I needed. I told my dad how he had empowered me to step out and be who I was meant to be by forcing me to sing with him when I was 11 years old. That was around the same time I met Diane.
Diane was a lady who had a limitless capacity for mothering. She only bore two children, but she mothered a flock bigger than any Dugger could claim. She was passionate about shepherding the next generation of influence in the world. And she didn’t possess that passion because she wanted to send a bunch of kids into the world spouting Bible verses and proselytizing every person they met. She did what she did because she cared about those kids. That’s all. That’s the extent of what I got from her when I was a dumb teenager who thought he knew it all. It’s no surprise that Billy Streat had the same sort of impact on me. It’s not shocking that he accepted me at face value because his mom always did exactly the same. She just didn’t know how to not care. I should have told her that. She was family, after all. I should have made sure that link was strong. I can’t change that now, but I can tell you who she was.
I had this 14-year-old kid walk up to me outside of Brookshires one rainy December night at about 10:30 and ask me for a ride home. I said no. I said no because that’s what you do when a kid you’ve never met asks you for a ride home late at night. This is a dangerous world full of dangerous people, and skinny, shivering kids are no more safe than a tattooed gang-banger with a gun in his hand. Hell, a kid like that could be more dangerous by virtue of the innocence of his appearance. He’s just the perfect one to catch you off your guard. So I walked to my car 20 feet away, and put the groceries in the back seat. Those 20 feet were the longest walk of my life. The image of that kid burned a hole in my brain, but even worse, Diane was in my ear. “You’re just gonna leave him there?” I hate those WWJD bracelets, but I couldn’t escape the thought of looking Diane Streat in the eye knowing that some poor kid was left on the doorstep of death, and I could have prevented it. I couldn’t shake wondering what Diane would do. Because let’s be honest. If this world is really as dangerous as I believed in that moment, then that crossroad was a life-and-death decision not just for me, but for that kid, as well. Cormac McCarthy said in Cities of the Plain that there are not multiple paths. That crossroad exists only for the moment it exists, and then it’s gone. You choose one path, and it becomes the only path. Which path did I want to become my only path? Which path would define who I am as a human being and as an adherent to the gospel of Christ?
What would Diane Streat do?
That kid ended up safely at a house. I can’t say with any certainty whether it was his house, but he got to where he wanted to go. He didn’t enjoy the ride, either. I gave him hell the whole way home because I saw him on the threshold and he was blind to it, as teenagers are wont to be. He got out of my car with Diane’s number in his pocket and the knowledge that she would answer the phone and love him through anything without needing to know how he came to know her name. That is who Diane Streat was. She was a lady who could make you forget everything you logically knew was the safe and reasonable thing to do, and act solely with love as your guide.
I’m glad to know that love has guided you home, Diane. Maybe if God gives us strength, we can all collectively love as much as you did all by yourself. There will never come a day that I don’t miss your corporeal self, but I rejoice in knowing that Diane is eternal.