One of my favorite Alan Jackson songs is the rather nostalgic Remember When. The lyrics reflect the years from the beginning of his marriage, the deaths of loved ones, learning from mistakes, and listening to the pitter-patter of their small children were small. The song also includes reflections of 30 seeming so old, but also a commitment to each other, when they grow old and gray, to be glad rather than sad, and thankful for the lives they had.
I like that song! Here’s a link to it, if you’d care to hear it before continuing to read, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTA2buWlNyM for a video.
This weekend is one of those times of year when I need to keep that kind of focus. Eleven years ago, on 30 September my oldest son, USMC Captain Justin Dale Peterson, turned 32 years old. There was no celebration as civilians might think of a birthday—Justin and his team were on a mission in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
The next morning, while returning from that mission, 01 October 2006, Justin was killed. Suddenly, life was changed, disassembled, rearranged, indeed. But “the siblings,” as my children and their spouses referred to themselves, gave me a wonderful perspective by the examples they set for anyone who was listening or watching. They still do today.
Here it is: Like the song, they chose to focus on the life of Justin that they enjoyed together, rather than concentrating on the loss. Yes, believe me, the loss is always there, but our losses can be tempered by the joys of life—if we so choose.
So, this morning as I pulled on a pair of western boots, it was with the purpose of remembering when … and I can’t tell you how many times this morning I’ve smiled and laughed, even through tears. Even the boots I’m wearing tell something of a bigger story.
As a young boy, Justin was fond of his “cowboy boots,” and never drifted very far from them at any time. His two sons—Jared (JDP5) and Jayden (JDP6)—seem to have that DNA chromosome as well. The boots (pictured below) were left behind by Justin when he deployed to Iraq, and beside them is a pair of Jayden’s.
Just a few days ago, Jayden’s mom Patty texted me a picture that brought laughter, pride, and tears rushing over me. For a part of his costume for Spirit Week at Oakland Christian School, Jayden slipped into this pair of his dad’s boots for the first time—and they fit!
I asked Patty, “Did the boots make him (referring to Jayden) walk pigeon-toed?” Those who knew Justin understand that comment. In fact, you may even have a “Justin story” or memory of your own. If so, his family and friends might like to hear it!
And, BTW, do you pray? If so, would you join the extended Peterson family today, tomorrow, and any other day that Justin comes to your mind, in a prayer of gratitude for his life? Although I still miss my boy, two things come to my mind: He touched a lot of lives, and his family surely loves him and is very thankful that we’ll be seeing him again!
Now, where did I put those Twizzlers????
Such sorrow, but to know one day you will join him for eternity.