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Letters: R.I.P., James

In the beginning, the future was limitless. After all, this was America. Young James might become a teacher, a physicist, a professional athlete, a movie star. Or even president.

James was full of energy. Blessed with the sturdy frame of his father and the grey eyes and pale skin of his mother, he had a captivating smile, whenever he chose to display it.

James lived in a small Midwestern town, in a yellow house on a tree lined street. He loved music, and listened mainly to country western. His favorite song was Alan Jackson’s "Remember When."

There was a large park nearby, alive with the sounds of children playing and birds chattering in the trees, where James enjoyed walks with his mother. It was a comfortable life for the moment, but it held a future of possibility.

James was close to his mother, more so than his father, who had left the home. He remembered when his mother and father would sing along, and sometimes dance, to country western music. But since his father left, he had noticed his mother change. She stopped singing and dancing, and James often heard her cry.

James didn’t know it then, but his life was about to change, dramatically. He would never marvel at a rainbow, or watch the sun set over a glassy sea. He would never enjoy a country music concert, or a county fair. James would never run a sandy beach, or hike a forest path. Or build a snowman, or feel the warmth of a campfire. He would never hear the roar of a waterfall, the crash of an ocean wave, or the music of a rushing stream. Nor would he ever smell a lilac in bloom, or a pine forest in autumn. And James would never fall in love, or marry a sweetheart, or cradle a baby in his arms.

On the day James died, he awakened early and left home with his mother. They drove in the family sedan to an unfamiliar location. There, when the terror began, it was dark.

James heard voices he could not recognize. One, a deep voice like his father’s, and the other, higher in tone, more like his mother’s. Then a strange noise, very close, and a jolting change in surroundings, a sensation James had never experienced. As if he had lost a protective shield.

Suddenly, bright light pierced the darkness. James focused on it eagerly, hoping for a new adventure. He saw something white, close to him, moving rapidly. Then something unwanted, cold and hard, poked at his left leg. James pulled the leg away, but the thing followed him, probing. He recoiled again, but there was nowhere to go. James tried to kick the thing away, but it found its mark. The thing clamped onto his right leg, its sharp teeth tearing into flesh.

James gasped in pain, more than he had ever known. His heart beat faster as he struggled to free himself. But it was useless, and the thing began to pull at his leg, harder and harder. Through the pain, James could hear the two unfamiliar voices. Why were they so calm? What was happening to him? Why didn’t his mother make it stop?

The pain was excruciating. The pulling and tugging increased, the pain nearly unbearable, until James’ left leg was ripped from his body. The cold instrument probed again, searching, until it found James’ other leg. His heart beat wildly. The thing clamped onto his leg in a vise grip, and the tugging began again. James’ mouth opened in a last muffled cry of agony. Finally, when he could bear the pain no longer, he lost consciousness. And then his heart stopped beating.

James was unaware when his right leg was also torn from his body, because he was dead. He never knew that first his left arm, and then his right, was ripped away. Or that the serrated Sopher clamp, guided swiftly and efficiently by the man in the white coat, did its work, slashing, slicing, cutting and tearing.

James was unaware when, as the finale of his dismemberment, his head was crushed and pulled away in pieces, unaware when the curette blade scraped away the remains of his body. James never saw the man in the white coat reassemble his body parts, confirm they were all there, then drop them into stainless steel trays neatly labelled arms, legs, heart, liver, stomach, and kidney. And James was unaware that his body parts would be sent elsewhere, perhaps for profit, for “scientific research.”

James would never be cradled in his mother’s arms, or see his mother’s face, or tell his mother he loved her.

R.I.P., James. And 60 million others.

— David Minier,




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