Last week some of our dearest friends in the world — Erich and Laura Heinz — welcomed their seventh child into the world, Leah Catherine, a beautiful future queen in the earth.
Last week my old friend Dustin Salter died in Ft. Worth, Texas, passing from a coma to waking joy in the same moment. While out for a bike ride with his children last November, Dustin fell and hit his head on the pavement. He never woke up, and died four months later.
I last saw Dustin in about 1991. We lived in the same condo for a summer in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida — that would have been 1989 — and made a lot of memories at a time in my life when I was becoming the man I am today. Once Dustin and I slept in the same twin bed. I learned the meaning of the word “mortify” from him. I called him “D.” He had a scar on his arm from a car accident he was in as a teenager. That arm was shorter than the other and was a bit stiff. The scar looked like plucked chicken skin because it was transplanted from his hip. Dustin was an exceptional basketball player, which immediately bound me to him. I grew up playing ball with guys like Dustin my whole childhood, only Dustin had an integrity and joy that I had never really seen before. Or since for that matter. He seemed to be above everything going on (metaphorically, but also literally — Dustin was about 6’4″), and people instantly respected him. I did.
After that summer in 1989, I visited Dustin at the University of West Alabama, where he went to college. That was the last time I saw him. His picture on the internet shows a slightly more substantial, slightly less hirsute version of the Dustin I remember. He went on to become a Presbyterian campus minister. He left his wife Leigh Anne and three children when he crumpled under death’s grip. I wish I could have shaken his hand one last time.
Though I haven’t seen him in over 15 years, I miss him. Death is a thief.
It is remarkable that on this side of the consummation of all things, birth and death are so yoked together that they pull simultaneously down the crooked corridors of our experience. I want death to die. I hate it. But the tears of death are not the end for Dustin, nor is my remembrance of him. Even now, my memories of him are like what you see out of the corner of your eye, and before long, they will be gone altogether.
But there is One who remembers Him and knows Dustin’s name. He welcomed him, just as we welcomed little Leah Catherine into the world last week.
Rest in peace, D.