Strange how the world works. My brother-in-law, Roger James, died Tuesday morning, July 6th. I went up to Arkansas for the funeral, which was on Thursday. It was cancer, which also took his wife, my sister Dolores, five years ago.
Dying isn’t strange, of course. Dying is a waste of love and potential, but not strange. But there is a connection behind the scenes in this story, and that’s the subject of this post. On Monday morning, Killing Trail was published and I felt pretty good. Tuesday morning, we lost Roger and the good was gone. Yet, the connection I mentioned is between Roger and that book. Killing Trail is dedicated to two men. One is Louis L’Amour, the famous western author whose work influenced the stories in the collection. The other man is Roger, who was a big reader and who introduced me to L’Amour. Roger was famous only to his family and friends, many of whom just called him “Papa.” That was OK with him; it was all he would have wanted.
Fortunately, I sent the dedication, which included a short essay about Roger and L’Amour, to him about a month ago through his daughter, my niece, Anna. The essay included the story about how, as a kid, I used to borrow all of Roger’s books, and about how we often talked about the books once I’d read them. Roger liked a good story, and occasionally told a bit of a tall tale himself. Anna told me that Roger really liked the essay, and I’m glad he got to hear about how much I appreciated him before he passed. That doesn’t mitigate the tragedy of his loss. But somehow it lifts my spirits just a little. The good is not totally gone.
Roger was alive when I wrote that dedication. He’ll always be alive in its pages. And in our memories.