Nick Paige was 18 when his life ended in a tragic automobile accident on December 22; ‘the darkest evening of the year,’ as Robert Frost put it in his most well-known poem.
Nick was in church on November 26, Thanksgiving weekend, when we took another look at some of the meanings in Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening; Carole, his mother, talked about it with him. He knew he had promises to keep, but we all assumed there would be many more miles to go. It was, indeed, the darkest evening of the year.
Nick’s father, Cliff, spoke eloquently at Nick’s memorial service, as did his sister Mandy and his brothers Dan and Ben. Mandy read a beautiful letter she wrote to her brother last April, on his 18th birthday. She told him what a great guy and wonderful brother he has been, and how proud she is of him. Reading the letter at his service was a powerful reminder, as Mandy said, to ‘tell the people you love that you love them, now.’
Carole wrote something for Nick’s service. She asked me to read it on her behalf. She titled her memorial statement, “Nicholas – the bearer of gifts.” She wrote: “Nicholas gave of himself every day of his life. For all those who knew him, for all those who loved him, you need only think of a greeting, a smile, a laugh, to understand his gifts. Simple gestures mean so much. I am the most fortunate woman to have brought Nicholas into this world and to have known his love. This, my friends, is the greatest gift of all.”
She concluded with a quote from 1st Corinthians: “There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. Love never fails.”
I remember Nick as a shepherd in the pageant–a cute kid; and later as one of the three kings, bringing his gift of gold. Then, on December 23, I stood at the bed in the Intensive Care Unit at Danbury hospital during those desperate hours following the accident, recalling the Psalmist’s words out loud: “Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death I fear no evil.” The shadow where we stood that day is every parent’s nightmare.
At the memorial service Nick’s uncle Don reminded the hundreds of mourners that, “Nick’s heart is still beating.” His heart saved the life of a 48 year old man, as did his kidneys, liver, a lung and other life-giving tissue that were donated.
Nick’s memorial service was an affirmation of his life and love, focusing on Nicholas — the bearer of gifts.
On Christmas morning I sat with Nick’s family in front of the fireplace watching the flames and talking about Nick’s ongoing influence and his spirit, which lives on in the hearts of those he touched.
Carole’s choice was just right: “There are, in the end, three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.” Pass it on.