How many of you remember my comments about sensing a divine necessity in going out that one day to take pictures of the West Elm Creek Valley? I was puzzled about that sense of urgency. But then, a short time later was the crash that destroyed my bike and could mean a full year hiatus from riding and photography before it’s over. To be honest, over half the shots I took that day weren’t good enough to post, so documenting things was not likely the priority. The point is that it was important to Him I get it done, and I presume it won’t be possible later.
Timing is everything. Right now it’s not all that obvious why my brother died a week ago instead of some other time. The only real sadness here is that I’m pretty sure he died without making peace with God. But today I’ll be gathering with some extended family and commemorating his life. What follows is something I wrote to share with everyone there:
Jessie Tearl Hurst – 14 May 1970 – 26 June 2016
Nobody can claim to describe another person; all we can do is relate our individual experience. Hopefully you’ll recognize some of what I say as the same Jessie you knew.
He was born almost a full generation behind me, but we remained close as siblings, especially as he got out of childhood. From the very start he showed a disdain for boundaries. But instead of raging against them like a bulldozer, he developed a strong talent for circumvention. He always seemed to harbor the suspicion that boundaries and barriers were designed to keep him from something he might want. But it was seldom about the prize; he was always driven by the challenge to prove how smart he was against the system.
The world needs people like that because there are too many people who take the system too seriously. Unfortunately, those are the folks who guard the system and Jess spent a good chunk of his life incarcerated. Through all of that, I tried to keep track and did what I could to remind him that I cared. We did share some traits, but our different paths are a study in contrasts.
- He was a convict; I was policeman.
- With computers, he was a serious hacker who loved exploring; I was more of a customer service technician.
- He was an atheist and I’m a clergyman.
We still got along fine. He still needed people. Genius is wasted unless there is someone who can see it. As long as he had some kind of companion to work with, he got a lot of work done. In those times he was isolated, not so much. Particularly in the second half of his life: He needed someone around to benefit from his talents or he lost his drive.
His intelligence stood in the gifted class, just a little short of the official definition of genius. So it’s not as if he didn’t know his personal habits were unhealthy, but there were few that he would trust as a sanity check. The decline began in earnest probably a decade ago, accelerating as time went on. He came out of prison buff and healthy, but when I found his body a week ago Sunday, he was emaciated.
It serves no good purpose blame anyone. He was his own man and fought being told what to do, which manifested in his adamant resistance to medical treatment. He made his choices and left us too soon.