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September 12

My windows were open allowing a soft breeze to grace my morning. Coffee brewing as traffic passed in a hurry. I was just getting started with my day of cleaning and then planned to have an afternoon with pen in hand writing what my heart was ready to pour. Across at our neighbor's home I could hear her readying the school bus to pull out of the drive. Just a normal morning.

Just a few moments later my phone would jingle an early tune. Too early for a call. Who would it be calling me? I answered to hushed sobs. "Rob, you have to go to Bobbie right now. She needs you. Donnie has been killed." 

Another call. Broken sobs once again. The voice on the other end telling me to go. My phone dropped from my hand. I don't know how hard I fell. I went to my knees. Screams escaping. I was on my face crying, "No, no, no. Sweet Jesus, no. Not Donnie." 

My phone rang me back to wiping tears from my face. I didn't want to answer. It would be my daughter's voice on the other end. She had heard. "Mom, you can't go yet. The road hasn't been cleared. You can't drive being so upset. You have to wait a while, Mom." 

I sat shaking. All I could see was Donnie's sweet smile. I had to get to Bobbie. What would I say to my friend? My God, what would I say? I gathered myself together. Keys in hand I walked out the door only to unlock the door and walk back inside. It just couldn't be possible. 

I'm driving down Hwy FF with tears rolling faster than my driving. Uncontrollable emotion. I have to gain control of myself. I'm on Hwy. 30 now. Just a few more miles and I will be there. 

I have no idea how I have made it thus far. Cars are just now beginning to move through. I get close to the drive way and what I see blinds me from all reality. Yellow paint in the driveway. Dear, Jesus, what has happened here? I can't breathe. How do I drive across? People are everywhere. Faces in shock. I see a crashed car. Sweet Jesus.

I knock. Why am I knocking and just not opening the door? I feel like a stranger in a home of my best friend. This just can't be. It's not possible. Faces are everywhere filling the house. The home of my friend who covets her privacy. I'm only looking for my friend. 

She's there on the sofa. Clearly in shock. All I can do is wrap my arms around her. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I love you. I love you." My words are spoken in a whisper. Her reply in sobs. "Rob, my baby is dead. My baby is gone. He's gone, Rob." 

Unimaginable agony hit this family like a tornado. No warning. Unexpected devastation on a morning that began in normal happiness. Nothing can be rebuilt. Nothing will ever be the same. How will they pick up the destruction that has been scattered and tossed from the winds of this storm?

This is a morning I will never forget. Just as I will never forget the morning of 9/11 as I watched in horror and disbelief at the devastation and agony of those in the path of these evil men who had nothing in their hearts but evil. 

It seems like yesterday that was to be the morning that changed our hearts forever and shook us to the core. How does a young, bright, fifteen year old ready for school, walk down the drive to wait on the big yellow have his life ended in the blink of an eye? How is it possible his life ends the moment a drunk driver crashes into him? 

How is any of this even possible? Who is drunk at 7:00 in the morning? The sun just beginning to rise and create a day of beauty to be canceled out by a group of men intent on making life all about them. What kind of men have a mindset to drink so early and make the choice to get behind the wheel of their cars? Who downs their beer and has the audacity to race down a dangerous section of highway where a bus is readying to pick up children? Just a few more minutes and Donnie would have been on the bus! 

These men made the choice to not only drink but to race to the local diner. Needless to say they didn't make the breakfast rush. What they did make was a disaster that cannot be reversed. 

If only they would have chosen wisely. If only they would have gone home after work instead of drinking. If only they didn't enjoy racing to see who could what? Get there quicker? What a grand prize for the winner. Who was it who won the race on this day? They didn't get past Donnie without killing him as he did nothing but stood in his driveway with pack back and computer in hand. If only these men could have thought about someone other than themselves. They not only took their own lives for granted, but the lives of everyone on the road that day and the child's life that ended because of their actions. 

A year has passed. This family lives the unimaginable daily. Living one breath at a time. Courageously facing court cases that are continued over and over again. Bars do not yet hold these criminals from living their lives so freely. A freedom they took for granted. One day soon may justice prevail and may these heinous men be held within the confines of four walls and lose the freedom they have taken from a family who is living in the wake of their actions. May they face justice and be held accountable for taking the life of sweet, young Donnie Tipton.

Donnie's story doesn't begin or end on this day of September 12, but it was forever changed. Donnie's life was so huge. The impact of his shine will forever light in the hearts  that know him and in those who are just now knowing his name. 

Donnie's story begins with a God who created Donnie into existence with glory and might. Donnie was created in His image for a great and mighty purpose. He was created in greatness for greatness. It carries through to a momma's love for him as he was just beginning to form. This is where Donnie's story begins. 

His life on this earth was magical as he touched the lives in a powerful way of everyone who knew him. Donnie did more in fifteen years to impact the hearts of others than most do in their entire life lived many years. Donnie didn't have the chance to continue his journey here. That was taken. Stolen from him and his family. 

Donnie's story will continue on in every heart. And there will be a day, oh, that day will come where we will all meet once again. Right now Donnie is living on the other side of heaven. I can only imagine the beauty that has touched his sight and brought new emotion he didn't even know possible. His loving Creator never taking His hand off His child. But reaching deeper and wrapping His arms around him to carry home the child He created.

Oh, how the stars are brighter for Donnie now. He's on the other side of this earth with his Heavenly Father. His momma has been without her son for 364 days today. I can't fathom spending one without my son. My heart aches for my friend and her family. Life unimaginable isn't changing. Time isn't healing all wounds. Life is breathless and each day is one that they rest in the hope of Jesus, knowing one day soon they will see Donnie again and until then they live with that hope, a faith that remains and is too strong to be broken.

How do you not question everything in life now? How does fear not cover you like a think blanket? Jesus. He is the only answer. This doesn't make sense. This new life for them is unbearable, but with Jesus they breathe in and breathe out with a lasting hope of forever where the stars are brighter and no storms can reach. A place beyond the agony they live daily. A heaven that only our Father created. It is through Jesus that hope is alive and through Jesus that faith stirs in us a longing for home.

We love you, Donnie. See you soon.

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

"The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom should I be afraid? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart is not afraid; though a war breaks out against me, still I am confident. I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple. For He will conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high on a rock." Psalm 27:1-5


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