There is a Lesson in Everything and Everyone We Encounter; if I've learned little else in these 3 decades and some odd years, it has proven true without fail.
I met Ethan Pauley's Family in the fall of 2009 during a 4-H meeting. Surely, Ethan was there, but I remember only the youngest boys that evening.
Through the years, my oldest son became great friends with the middle sons of Steph Pauley and Jim Pauley. My then babies become little boys then just "Kids" with their youngest son, Eli.
Stephanie and I became famous and infamous goat, pig and cow wranglers all over the Tri-state facebook farm community pretty quickly, always able to be found at the best of restaurants any random place in Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio or Kentucky had to offer with livestock waiting out in the van.
We learned quickly to call Jim should we need anything constructed . . .be it a rescue horse shed or truck bed temporary livestock transporter. He was the go to guy.
But where was Ethan? Who was he?
I think I must have noticed him most in what ended up becoming roughly a by-yearly type family photos session I'd take or at Easter Church service in more recent years.
Ethan was always there. Or not there. Coming. Going. This was especially true as he got older, and they moved from Wayne county to Wheelersburg.
He played Soccer. He loved Soccer. Stephanie asked, "Come up and see Ethan Play" many times. I never went. My answer, "Oh, you know me. I can't sit through sports things, but maybe I'll try sometime."
I never did. That was a long time to never go.
I found time to go see the Luke at a horseshow now and again; I made it to Jake's and Eli's birthdays usually, too.
I remember Ethan went along about 2 years ago because he needed soccer cleats or something like this when Stephanie and I headed to the mall. He didn't say much, but I do recall he asked her to buy him a sizable novel, and he took it out to the van to read while he waited on us. When we finally made it out, he was about half way through, and I remarked how nice it was to see a 16 year old boy read with such voracity. I thought on that each time I'd see him. Odd what sticks with a person, isn't it? It often connects to what we personally like somehow or other.
And our memories about someone are made up of what "We" think about them. How common but telling that is.
Going into the fall last year, Stephanie said to me, "Oh, I want you to take Ethan's senior photos." My answer? "Shew, I am no good a teenage boys photo sessions. They just don't like taking them, so they make getting nice shots awfully hard. But I'll take them sometimes this fall."
And I went up to Ethan's school and soccer field. Over all these years, he was always coming and going, you know. I mentioned that before. How often his mother said to me, "Ethan seems to know everyone" or "I'm telling you, Tinia, everyone likes him so much." These things may sound like a typical proud mother words, whether "everyone" really meant 10 people or 1,000 was of little consequence then. But now, in fact, it really meant EVERYONE, reaching so far outside of his community. I'm so thankful for that. For him to have that. For them to have that. It is priceless.
Because when someone you love it gone, you are left with memories, and those are made up of what everyone thinks of them. There is such power in that. And comfort when everything stays broken for so long after such a loss.
I'm a tough girl to impress. I guess that is where I'm going with this, but I easily overlook things if I'm not invested at that moment. Then something small can happens and I will remember it and be moved so deeply in unexpected things.
Spending 2 hours taking photos, you are invested. . .and in that time, Ethan never once did anything but be so polite and cheerful. Doing Exactly what I asked him to do. That may seem a small thing, but this meant getting out on a field where a team was practicing and him posing in all sorts of manners that would have felt awkward with a crowd around, it meant dodging footballs on the field and making subtle changes in expression over and over again with a camera in your face. It meant chasing a soccer ball down a hillside 20 times for me to get "the action shots" I wanted.
And you know. . .he did it, and when I look at the hundreds of shots I took in those 2 hours, as someone who has been capturing kids and young people for a long time, it was worth noting, there isn't one frame he was not trying his hardest to do what I was asking of him and to do it well.
He sent me a message on Facebook that night to say thank you for doing his senior pictures.
This past Christmas, when he asked for a certain novel, Stephanie asked me if I could get it quick through Amazon Prime, and again, I paused to think, "How odd and how nice it is for an 18 year old boy to be asking for a book to read for a gift."
Little things, but in many ways, it is sad to say that is the extent of the time I invested to know him better, and while I recognize
this is just normal life and shows the connection of ages of my sons and his younger brothers, it serves to remind me and anyone that we could give closer notice to those who we have growing up or just leading lives so very, very close, right by and inside of our own whom we may not be taking enough note of. I assure you, if you think on that, folks will come to mind where this applies to you as much as I realize it does to me.
We know, in this extended area, this beautiful boy managed to impress people not only in Wheelersburg, Ohio, but far out into Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, and of course beyond those borders with his extended family being all over the United States, in California, Michigan and elsewhere. The messages I've received through his YouCaring page about him have been some of the most heartfelt compliments you can imagine, all speaking to his sincerity to be his very best at whatever his hand found to do, always looking to cheer up a friend and truly polite to every parent he met. Making impressions of tremendous value.
And I would be so remiss to not pause and think, I believe I should have known him better. Indeed, I should have.
Like I said, there is something to be learned of value in every situation and in everyone we encounter. And I suspect I'll think of this lovely boy I feel I personally only know in pictures whenever I pause to wonder if I've tried hard enough to be more than just a stranger in someone's life that has been lived quite entwined with my own.
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens
- Proverbs 27:23-27