Ever talked to the family of a dead person shortly after the death?
I have. Its no fun. I did it again today.
Dont get me wrong this particular family is one of the most remarkable I have ever met.
I learned a lot from them about sorrow and faith and love and forgiveness.
But it was not exactly like riding in a fighter jet.
I traveled to McMinnville to meet Jim Taylor and his extended family. They have unfortunately found themselves thrust into the news by the violent death of Jims wife, Patricia.
Patricia Taylor died Sunday afternoon on the way home from a play with her friend Judith Folgate.
They were stopped in slow traffic on Highway 99 when a car driven by Abdelfattah Marzouk slammed into the back of them. Judiths car burst into flames.
Patricia died at the scene.
It took an hour to drive to drive to the home.
My photographer Casey and I talked a bit about what we expected to cover with the family then listened to country music and talk radio and did anything we could think of to keep our minds off what we were driving toward.
As we pulled up outside the home I could see people inside.
Its nearly always like this.
We walk in. The family is there not saying much sadness hangs heavy in the air. We do polite introductions then talk to them about what we are hoping to do--- get a couple comments from a couple family members--- video tape some of the photographs we asked them to bring out--- then go away.
An eight year old scampers through the room. I say hello and ask him his name, as he darts out to another room. I would really like to go with him.
Instead I begin chatting with Jim, the Patriarch of the family. He is a big, strong man with an impressive beard and kind smile.
He works at the local steel mill.
We hook up the microphone and Casey focuses the camera.
I ready myself, afraid of the emotion that will likely soon come out. But I know its important. I and the family want to show the world this was not a nameless, faceless victim. But a woman who had deep roots in the community and a passionate family who loved her very much.
I begin asking questions. What can you tell us about your wife?
He tells me how they met more than 37 years ago. He was heavy into alcohol. As the daughter of a minister, she was heavy into the Lord.
It must have been love at first sight. They dated two weeks and got married. Totally ignored the objections of both sets of parents.
He quit drinking the day they married.
Now all these years later they have a grown son and daughter and son in law and two grand children.
Big Jim struggles--then looses his battle with his emotions--and sobs and says:
everybody loved her.
His pain is so real and powerful I fight to hold back tears and try to think of my next question.
I ask his opinion of the man who caused the crash.
He stuns me by saying he is praying for him. Here is his exact quote.
I honestly do hope and I pray that some day he'll have a peace about it that I do.
People never cease to amaze me. The depth of love in his heart is huge.
I talked with his daughter and son too. They shared favorite memories of their mother. I struggled to not think of my own mother.
Erin, the daughter, told me how she had been waiting for her mother to come home Sunday night they were going to go shopping.
She had heard about some crash near Tigard, then turned on the news that night and recognized the burning car as the one her mother was in.
She says she dropped to the ground screaming.
And yet through all that pain--all that loss--the family hopes nothing but forgiveness for the man accused in the crash.
They are relying on their Christian faith to pull them through and make sense of it all.
Here is one of her comments.
My mom was a wonderful teacher. And if her death can be used as a tool to teach somebody how important the Lord is in their life, then she would say her job was done well.Gillette Taylor, Patricias son said something very similar.
If its one person helping one person my mom would have loved that. It was meant to be. It was her time. She is with my sister in heaven, in my eyes, with my sister and my grandfather.And their father, Big Jim, wrapped it up saying he does not care if the accused ends up in jail as long as he changes his life.
If I had my druthers, what I would like to see happen. I would like to see the guy turn his life around--not be mad at other drivers. Just go about his life and not have to go to jail. Not have anything done to him at all if he could change and not be like that..
Later as Casey shot video of family pictures--- Erin and her father hugged.
As we stood and talked about memories and family vacations one or the other would sometimes burst into tears.
But they were tears not just of sadness but also joy for the life they were celebrating.
Every time I interview a family like this I have to admit I dread it going in. But going away, Casey and I agreed we had just met an amazing family full of love and faith.
It was not an easy day.
But it was rewarding.