Today marks the one week anniversary of the tragic, all-too-soon death of one of my good friends of the past seven years. Stacy Ellison died at the age of 37 after injuries sustained in a car crash on the Louisville Second Street Bridge. Stacy leaves behind his wife, Kim, who he loved and cherished, his little girl, Ali, and his infant son, Titus. He also leaves behind so many friends and family members who loved him dearly.
The Ellison family showed me great love, care, and joy during my time in Louisville. When an ice storm knocked out power across most of the city a few years ago, they housed me and my then-roommate for nearly half a week. I considered Stacy and Kim to be like my really cool, slightly more mature cousins. Stacy was my buddy; we watched NASCAR together, played in the same fantasy football league, and we once played a little Microsoft Kinnect (the last time I was over at his house). Stacy was a good Christian man, a deacon in our church, a faithful husband and father, and, of course, he was my friend.
A little over a month ago, he made me laugh so hard when he pretended to use his son as a Yoda puppet. I got so excited I had to leave the church fellowship hall because I was distracting the kids from their lesson. That was classic Stacy Ellison.
The details of his death have been a source of grief, mostly because it doesn't appear that there is anything he could have done to avoid it. Stacy was driving north from Louisville into Indiana in a Ford Taurus on a beautiful, somewhat comfortable December afternoon. A Silverado truck was coming south in the opposite lane. Because of extensive maintenance projects on the bridge, the speed limit was posted at around 30 mph. An eyewitness who was following the truck claims he was following the speed limit and the truck seemed to be doing about the same speed. Suddenly, everything went crazy...
The truck began to swerve out of control, accelerated wildly, hopped the dividing curb, and careened into the lane of oncoming traffic. Stacy's Taurus was the lone car that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The vehicles collided head-on. The two passengers in the truck were badly hurt, but Stacy suffered unsustainable injuries and died within the next hour. Medical examiners believe the driver of the truck suffered from a "medical emergency" that caused him to lose control of his vehicle. The witness said the driver appeared to be suffering from a seizure that likely resulted in his foot smashing down onto the gas pedal, causing the terrible chain of events that claimed the life of my friend.
When I heard about Stacy's death after a call from another dear friend, I felt like I should do something to make the situation better... but that was just desperate longing to try and regain a sense of control in my life. After an hour of scrambling across the internet and across town to inform some friends of the terrible news I had learned, I returned to my apartment, unaware of what to do next.
It is my personal belief that Stacy and Kim knew how much I valued their friendship, yet I cannot recall any occasion when I bothered to verbalize that sentiment. It's the kind of thing I sometimes have trouble saying with a straight-face, maybe because of how overly-sentimental it sounds or perhaps because I don't want to find myself tearing-up unexpectedly. But one thing that left a pit in my soul was the fact that people I care about could go to their grave (and to meet God) never knowing the depth of appreciation that I had for them.
That night, I did the only thing I could do. I called up numerous people (some family, some friends) who have been important in my life over the past few years. I didn't call everybody who I probably should have called, and sometimes I only got their voicemail services, but I did manage to tell the people who answered the phone three simple words, "I appreciate you." I tried to express the nature of that appreciation, but I'm sure my attempts to do so only scratched the surface.
I am so thankful for the people that God has placed in my life, at different times and in different places, that have made my life better for knowing them. Often, we don't have as much time together as we expect, but that doesn't make the time spent together any less sweet. One thing I learned after the death of my friend, Stacy, is that I have to value the important people in mind. Hopefully, I can let them know how much I truly appreciate them.