I am not sure why we experience surreal moments, and I’ve often wondered why we have feelings that leave us questioning the validity of an experience.
I was sitting tonight conversing with my wife’s cousin’s husband Frank as my wife Lee and her two cousins Kathy and Marcia were catching up on old times and working on a craft project. Frank is a terrific and engaging man. A twenty-four year Army veteran and now retired school teacher, Frank’s stories are always intriguing and oftentimes spellbinding. Frank now volunteers at an equine therapy ranch where kids with disabilities, both physical and emotional, receive therapeutic treatment via their interactions with horses.
As Frank was telling me about the work he was doing at the ranch, he segued into a conversation about working with at-risk youth. Specifically, he told me about a young man in his class some thirteen years ago that stood out because of his bad and bullying behavior. Frank explained how through a classroom exercise he had determined this particular boy needed help. He was not in a normal state of mind. A social worker that was with Frank framed it more specifically. “He’s a sociopath,” said the social worker. And shortly after that, this boy dropped out of school.
Frank did not hear about this boy again until he saw news reports about a murder committed during the burglary of a jewelry store in New York. The suspect was not apprehended on Long Island and had slipped into Connecticut where he ended up killing two more people in another jewelry store burglary. The victims this time were a husband and wife.
My heart skipped a beat.
“Wait. When did you say this was,” I asked?
Frank confirmed the timetable for me.
“What was this boy’s name again?”
Franks confirmed that for me, too.
Chris DiMeo had been his student. Now he was a felon convicted of the 2005 murders of Tim and Kim Donnelly. Tim and Kim’s son Eric is the guitarist for The Alternate Routes, a rock band out of Connecticut and one of whom I’ve been a fan for several years.
In 2016, Eric wrote a touching and heartfelt song about the events surrouding the death of his parents. Lee and I have seen The Alternate Routes perform live since then, and I spoke briefly to Eric about the impact of his music. I wish I had delivered something of eloquance in our quick conversation, but I think all I could muster as I wiped a tear from my eye was, “Dude, that song is incredible and amazing. Thank you for sharing it with us.” As always, Eric was humble and gracious and so very appreciative for the feedback.
As I sat here tonight talking to Frank and I realized his former student is the man who took so much away from Eric and his family, I became dizzy in the surrealness of the moment.
And I wish I could wrap this post up in a wise and witty bow that brings this whole conversation full-circle, but I am at a loss for words. My heart aches anew for the pain Eric and his family experienced. My heart aches for Frank and his knowledge that one of his students went on to become a monster. My heart aches for the next person who will receive a life-changing phone call (see video below).
I don’t have an answer to the questions rattling in my head except, perhaps, to say we must keep on fighting the darkness with light and attacking evil with love. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me right now.
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12 NASB