by the Night Writer
When my wife became a police chaplain we knew we could expect some tense calls in the middle of the night since chaplains are commonly called on for death notifications. We didn’t expect that the first call she received would be for someone we know.
Joe was the kind of guy for whom guardrails were invented. Life had thrown him a few curves and he had a tendency to get a little wide through these at times, drifting out on the edges where the traction can be treacherous. The same age as me, he was whippet thin and had a look about his eyes that suggested a dog that had been kicked too many times. There was no doubt he had been.
Kick a dog, or a man, often enough and he can get mean. That wasn’t Joe. There was still a level of optimism, trust and forgiveness in him despite all that he had been through. Some of it was the rub-your-neck admission of the things he knew he had brought on himself, and some of it was a faith that things were inevitably going to get better. He loved his wife, he loved his kids, he loved riding his motorcycle.
His father left home when Joe was two; he didn’t see him again for more than 30 years. Once when he had had the opportunity and inclination to do the same thing he pointed his bike toward the open road, but couldn’t, wouldn’t do it. Bad company and bad choices had often been his reality, but there had also been a share of good choices when he said, “I’m turning around.”
Including that most important time, that time when he looked into Hell and said, “I’m turning around.”
Monday night was a lovely night for a ride, and one of the few things he could afford right now. He and a friend set out into the darkness and at some point he found one last, non-metaphorical guard rail. His shattered wrist watch said 12:15. Our phone rang not long after. Another chaplain had received the original call-out and gone to the house, but when he arrived Joe’s wife had asked for Marjorie.
Today a wisp of a song played through my mind, over and over. An older song, sung by someone who shares my name, called “Midnight Wind”.
There are dreams that fly in the midnight wind
Souls that cry in the midnight wind
Lovers who try in the midnight wind
You and I in the midnight wind
Sometimes…you can see, feel the edge coming. And sometimes it drops away from you without warning. You, and I, in the midnight wind.