August 28, 1997 – Thursday – 11:50 a.m.

Three full years now.

There is a lump in my throat.  I lay in my bed in a somewhat emotional state, I’ll admit, but everything I’m thinking feels painfully true.

I’m getting older.  I’m losing my hair.  I’m dying.  My mother will soon be a child and I will be her father to take care of her.  My youth seems to be escaping me.

Although I hate it, I’ll probably have to play the dating game soon.  Hmmm.

Am I still young?  What about those days from so long ago?  Those days of innocence with Jenna and Tenielle?  All my life, I’ve always wanted to be different.  People color their hair, pierce their bodies, but I was going to remain different by staying the same.  But I have changed.  I am changing.  Changing like the rest of the generation and the world.  I wish I could escape somehow and not be a part of this.  That way I would be completely different.

But instead my sin has also killed Christ and he died for me as well as all the others.  I am no different.  I am a sinner.  I did nothing for my salvation.  I simply accepted His Grace.  So I will continue to live and go through this life in the footsteps of my forefathers.  I will simply try to share God’s love in all I do and everywhere I go.

My emotions will tickle me.  I will laugh, cry, and simply live this roller coaster with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye.  This mask will leave me and I will be free.  My freedom comes now in simply knowing that I will be soon.  Loving and praising God is all that matters and all that will last.  That is the key.  That is the absolute.  That is the truth.

My children will begin to leave me on the day they are born.  And I will love people by letting them go.

And I will even let myself go.

March 23, 1995 – Thursday – 4:55 p.m.

Today, when I walked into the post office, I ran to my box, praying that a letter from Emily would be in there.

And there was.

Excited, I opened it and read this:

Jacob,

There are so many people out there who give so little but some things are worth so much.  Your tender words caress my soul.  You mean so much.  I too was having an awful day, but when I read your letter I became high on life.  Thank you, for whatever it is worth.

I’ve lived a pretty hard life.  I can’t remember how much I have told you, but it has taken me a while to admit to needing help.  My emotions are so forgotten I believed they cease to exist.  I put walls all around me and closed my eyes.  No body has entered my mind and I’ve become void.

Emptyness is better because the pain can’t get it.  It won’t hurt anymore.  I believed this for a long time and I could only hurt the ones I loved to get back at this game of life.  Now I realize more than ever how special every creature is and how we all fit into the giant puzzle no one can solve.  It would be much easier if we all cared, but not many people do.  There is no easy way to do things.  And nothing is fool proof.  I hope your friends you were speaking about can relate their problems to someone special.  I’m lucky to have you.  We all need to be loved.

Thank you for giving me a door to a brighter tomorrow.  After all it can’t rain all the time.  People like you know how to give and receive, never being too greedy or too generous.  I miss people like you.  They are hard to find

Jacob, you can be the prince of my heart anytime.  You only have to ask.  Don’t let fear stop you from anything.  I’ve become aware to your kindheartedness and true inner beauty.  I’ve grown so much.

Do you know how old I am?  How old do you think I am?  Does it matter to you or will you be prejudice if I wasn’t the right age?  I don’t look or act my age.  I truly don’t feel my age.  Can you guess how old I am?  Have I ever given you any impression of my age?  It’s sort of a game I play.  I was just wondering if you had caught on.  It’s really no big deal.  If you get it within two years I’ll give you a penny, okay!  It’s a bet!

Recently I have been feeling really ugly and I’ve had low self-esteem.  I’ve begun to realize why.  I’m not quite sure yet.  So, just keep praying for me and I will let you know as soon as I brainstorm.

I hope you are enjoying or have enjoyed your visit home.  Hopefully you have good memories and feelings.

My mom sat me down and talked to me today about seeing a psychiatrist.  I was hurt at first, but now I think it may help.  I don’t want to go, but I think God wants me to, so I will.

How do you feel about that?  Have you ever done that before?

You know it’s odd, but it seems as if I can tell you anything.  I know if we got together we could talk non-stop for days, but it seems more special to communicate with ink.  I’ve grown attached to you.  I don’t know what you are to me, but special.  

I love you very much.  You will always have a big piece of me.  I want you to have it.  It’s the only thing I can give you that means anything.  You deserve the best and I will treat you the best I can.

And since we are hundreds of miles away, I can only give you my pen, only my paper.  But whatever forms occupy my space, I want them to be for you.  Do you accept?

You know, I will forever cherish our few hours filled with smiles and game, but the way I know you now seems to be a far greater value to me than all the smiles I’ve seen.

Time is precious.

Thanks for giving me yours.

Love is precious.

Thanks for giving me yours.

I can be the best in the world for you.  Please let me hold you for a while.  Please take me.

I need to be held.

Love your angel, 

Emily

It turns out those few random hours from 9:00 p.m. to midnight on June 19, 1993 at the Deep Creek Campground near Bryson City, North Carolina may have changed my life forever.

If I only see her ink, her ink will do.

If I can’t hold her there in Florida, I will hold her ink and paper here.

If that fades away, like everything else.

I will fall in love with her again in heaven.

April 21, 1994 – Thursday – 4:40 p.m.

I just got off the phone with Kevin.

He asked me if I had talked to Tenielle.  They write each other now.  And they both like each other.

Again I remind you.

Kevin is 19.

Tenielle is 12.

I don’t know what it is with young girls and us guys (Kevin and I).  But I’m done with it.

He wanted to know if I was mad at him.  I’m not.

He said that he told Jenna and Tenielle that in the past I would always become friends with someone and then they would become friends with Kevin and spend more time with him.  That happened with Marcus and Jonathan, but I still remained their friends as well.

Kevin told me that when I said that “I’ll be better in a couple of months,” it really hurt Jenna and Tenielle.  They took it the way I meant it, but I don’t feel that way now.

I was just mad then.

All these voices!

Tenielle didn’t give me her letter last night since she wasn’t there.  Cheryl asked Marcus and I to go to the lake with them this Friday, but I doubt I will.

I’m going to the Carman concert with Tim this Tuesday.  The youth group is going too, but Tim and I are helping back stage.

That means more voices!

No man is isolated.  

He is a part of humanity.

I am not an exception.

Bummer.

January 17, 1994 – Monday – 12:46 p.m.

Today is my older brother’s birthday.  He is 19.  

A few minutes earlier my whole body was shaking.  I couldn’t control it.  Ever since I woke up I’ve been thinking of Jenna and Tenielle. Jenna mostly.

Yesterday morning they weren’t at church.  I went to Scott’s after church and they showed up to the evening service.  I had a letter for Jenna, answering the questions she asked me when she wrote me.  I was up on stage and I didn’t have a chance to give it to her.  Shar’s whole family, Sunny, Jenna, and Tenielle all got up and left a few minutes after Shurby began preaching.  At first I was sort of confused.  But I figured it must have been an emergency if the whole family left.  So this morning, I mailed Jenna her letter.

This is what Jenna’s letter said.  It shows her age a little bit, but I still found it sweet:

“Jacob, I think the youngest age for you should be 14.  Don’t get mad at me, but why did you like Veronica?  I don’t think Veronica knows how to act in front of anyone, even though I really don’t know her.  But if 14 doesn’t work, go to 15.  Do you want to go with anybody?  I think Cheryl likes you.  I asked her Sunday night who she liked, she said some boy at her school, but I think she likes you.  Do you think she does because of the way she acts?  Do you still like Tenielle even though she’s 12?  You look like a cherry on the stage, I think it’s funny but not in a bad way.  Please answer this question: when is the last time you cried?  Please don’t lie to me, I’m not going to make fun of you.  Please tell me the reason you cried, too.  Do you know Steve, Melissa’s brother?  He goes with Shar, but don’t tell anyone.  Do you think they are a good couple or is he kind of perverted?  Not that I’m interested but how do you act when you go with someone?”

I answered all her questions.  When she asked me if I want to go with anybody, I said no, because I’m going off to college soon and it would be simpler if I were just friends with that person.  And when she asked me if I still like Tenielle, I said “Yes, I like her the same way I like you.”

And I do.  I like them both.  I enjoy being around them.  Jenna will be 14 in March and that’s only three years.  When I liked Ryan, she was 14 and 15; same with Christi.

But earlier today, I didn’t know what to do.  I want to get close to Tenielle and Jenna, but I just don’t want to get hurt.  

My life is a book.  And I’m writing it down.  I want to be honest with myself and never cover up how I really feel.  But sometimes, I just don’t know how I feel.

December 28, 1993 – Tuesday – 8:43 p.m.

My Grandpa came to visit me today.  He is still the wisest man I know.  I hope I will be like him when I am his age.  Wouldn’t it be something if I kept writing My Book of Days past sixty?  Over 50 years of my life written down.

I just read the introduction in my new Les Miserables book.  Victor Hugo finished writing the book of his life when he was sixty.  I’m 17 and I think Challenger’s Deep is the book of my life.

What will all these days mean to me when I’m sixty?  I’m almost done with my fourth Book of Days.  Is any of this important?

My life has hardly begun.

But nevertheless, it has begun.  I’m here.  I am on this earth, and I can’t leave.  I have to be here.  I often think if I would be a different person if I were born into another family and another environment.  But now that I think about it, it is stupid to think that way.  This is the only life I’ve ever known.  God gave me this life.  I don’t have a choice.  I am me, whoever I am.

I guess that is ultimately up to me to decide.  God gave me free will, but in that free will he gave me characteristics of who he created me to be.  He has a will, but it is up to me to live up to it.

Have I figured myself out yet?  I believe I have.  I know I have.  The people I’ve come in contact with know that I’m a person who loves Jesus, loves the theater, tells stupid jokes, is inspired by Les Miserables, and sees himself as something valuable in the future.  I am a person with hope.  I person with joy.  This is my duty.  I can’t be anyone else.  I guess the beautiful thing is, I like who I am.  I like hanging out with me.  I like who I have to be and need to be for other people.

This could actually be fun.