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Lives cut short remind us to love

May 2, 2013 - By Betty Starks Case

I'd hoped to really tune in to spring in this column; to mention the flowering almond branch I brought inside to watch pink blossoms and shiny green leaves pop out of a dry brown stem; to share a smile when I told you about the robin building a nest over Rose's door. (This was not a good nesting place. Birdie do-doo is not appreciated on one's front walk.)

I wanted to rejoice with you in the beauty, the wonder, the rebirth of Earth.

Then in Boston, 19-year-old Dzhokhar and his brother became prime suspects in the bombing and maiming and killing of innocent people.

And in Gillette, 19-year-old Daniel Starks, a rare teen in today's world who politely wrote to thank people for graduation gifts, died a few hours after hand surgery.

"Our hearts are broken," my brother, Daniel's grandpa, told me on the phone.

Ours too.

Age 19 seems so young, so promise-filled for these young men -- handsome, bright and capable of directing their lives almost anywhere.

Now Dzhokhar, "Johar" as he had Americanized his name, is incarcerated.

Daniel, working in the oilfields to earn money for college, lost his index finger in an accident on the job. Surgery was done last week to make the thumb and middle finger more functional.

Sadly, Daniel did not survive.

When I think of age 19, it sounds like a stage of growth eagerly reaching out to the world, testing, trying to absorb the promises of manhood.

Then I study the photograph Daniel sent when he graduated high school just one year ago.

A youthful softness lingers in the eyes, the cheeks.

I don't think manhood has fully arrived.

And yet -- Daniel had a sweetheart, I'm told.

Of course he would. Girls would not miss the handsome, polite young man already holding a job of responsibility.

Still -- he seemed so young.

Daniel was my great-nephew. And I'm sounding like my mom-in-law when informed that her son would become a father.

"But he's not old enough!" she exclaimed.

But he was.

And Daniel had become quite a mature young man. He wouldn't have been hired to work in the oil fields if he hadn't been perceived as responsible and capable. He wouldn't have been looking ahead to his future.

The timing of events makes comparison of the two 19-year-olds almost unavoidable; the drama that drove them so distinctly opposite.

Johar is believed to have robbed others of precious limbs. Daniel was merely trying to save his own to live a good and just life.

Is this not a most peculiar world?

Don't we all make choices each day, every hour? Don't we decide how we'll respond to others in social affairs and business deals? In handling a disagreement? Driving down the street?

We can choose the negatives and darken the world around us. Or elect to engage in the positives.

We can cheer for the rescuers of the Boston bombers' victims; remember people like Gabe Martinez, the Marine who'd lost both legs in service to his country, the Marine who is not yet done with serving his fellow man.

Gabe and the others now walking ably with prosthetic limbs are heroes who travel to Boston hospitals to assure amputees of an active future despite the acts of hate by the bombers.

Let's celebrate the people who shared the freedoms of America on Patriot's Day by joining with runners from countries across the world. Let's ask blessings on the Americans who provide friendship, education opportunities and welfare assistance to others who come here to live.

Now you might ask, did I feel reluctance in writing of Daniel and Johar in the same column?

Yes. But Daniel had something important to teach.

Their ages were the same. Both were attractive, bright young men. They'd finished high school the same year.

There similarities ended. Life choices cried out to be told. And choices made all the difference.

As for the rest of us, the future begins now.

Let's watch for Robin's eggs to hatch over Rose's door -- and smile.

One day when Robin was out, Rose, hoping to encourage a building project elsewhere, gently placed a softball in the nest. Robin came home, kicked the ball out onto the ground, and proceeded to build a cradle for her chicks. She even decorated it with a long ribbon.

The moral, of course, is don't try to outfox bird brains.

But we can breathe in the fragrance of perennial blossoms and absorb the magic of our greening Earth. We can let the wonder remind us that new life and growth are not only possible, but eternal.

And whether you mentally heap flowers on Daniel's grave as you read this, or like us, do it in person, let's thank God that Daniel's coming and going reminds us -- above all -- to love one another.

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