Silly question most might say. Christmas day is for family and special friends, to be at home with kids, relatives, etc., right?
For the past twenty-four years that has not been the case for Brad Gaines. Gaines has spent the past twenty-four years at a cemetery. Yes, a cemetery. For the past twenty-four years he has never spent Christmas at home. He has been making the three hour drive from his home in Nashville, Tennessee to spend it at the Luketown Cemetery in Russellville, Alabama.
In 1989 Gaines was a member of the Vanderbilt University football team. In a game played at Ole Miss, Gaines was a running back and he was tackled by a defensive tackle, Chucky Mullins. The hit left Mullins paralyzed. He would die less than two years later from a pulmonary embolism. In the next nineteen months that Mullins lived, he and Gaines developed a special relationship. Gaines also makes the three hour drive to the grave site on Mullin’s birthday each year, October twenty eighth.
Just a few days ago I made one of my basketball junkets back to Indiana, something I have been doing for more years than I remember. As I got about twenty miles from my destination, I realized I was just a few miles from the area where my parents are buried. My subconscious set in and a voice asked, “Are you going to stop at their grave?” I thought a moment. “Man, it’s just about dark, it’s cold and I’m feeling that wind against the car; this is Indiana and it’s winter, you know.” Hum… twenty four years, every Christmas day and birthday.
You and I would be fortunate to have a friend who remembers us every year on our birthday and Christmas, he remembers us by coming to our grave, cleaning our headstone and spending some time with us.
Yes, on that day I did stop at Center Ridge Cemetery, Sullivan, Indiana, where my folks are buried.
“When somebody dies, we tell their story and try to define what was special about them… what it was they brought to the party and how they enhanced our lives just by showing up. In this way we educate ourselves about what really matters; or often, re-educate ourselves, for man needs more to be reminded than instructed.”
December 29, 2013