Luke was born to his proud parents during a frigid December when the temperature gauge didn't change from minus 50 degrees throughout the entire week. With a slight breeze most days, it was 100 degrees below zero with the wind chill factor. Luke fought hard to come into this world, making his entrance as hard a landing as was his exit. Even so, Luke was a healthy baby boy, and the day after his birth the nurses bundled him up into a Christmas stocking and sent us all home to his first Christmas tree. He stared for hours at the tree lights in total wonderment. Luke was my first born son - his younger brother, Michael, came along almost five years later. Luke just couldn't wait for his little brother to join him and once asked, "Mom, when is the Doctor going to crack you to get the baby out?". That was Luke...always thinking, always questioning.
Luke graduated high school in Havre, Montana on an accelerated program in January, 2002. In February, he immediately joined the Marines through their delayed entry program (he actually entered and began training in his junior year in High School). Luke graduated in San Diego in May, 2002 in the Honor Platoon. We were all so proud, but nothing compared to the pride he felt the moment he received his Eagle, Globe and Anchor pin and beamed at the camera. That was the moment he became a true Marine. As fate would have it, circumstances prevented Luke from finishing his time in the services. It was a big relief for me and we were thrilled as he made the decision to move to Florida to be with Michael and I. After moving here, Luke immediately began working for David Davis Electric. Luke had a strong work ethic and was happy to be learning the electrical trade. His boss, Dave, was so good to him, and Luke appreciated working as his apprentice for three years. The name "LUKE" means "In the Light". It seems fitting as I now think of my oldest son as "Luke in the Light", Heaven's special electrician.
While working full time, Luke also took night classes at the local community college. He always expected one day to get a college degree and wanted to build up some credits while working on his electrician's license.
In the summer of 2004, Luke returned to his home town in Montana to attend a wedding. Since Luke was raised on motorcycles and won many trophies in motocross competitions, he had the bug to get a bike again. As he rode a motorcycle (street bike) in the motorcade from the church to the reception, his desire was quickly fueled. I had talked Luke out of getting a bike here in Florida time after time for two years (with the help of a co-worker). However, once he got this latest yearning, there was no stopping him. He returned to Florida and the very next evening, after a quick credit check, the salesman at the local Yamaha dealer watched the happy new owner ride a brand new red R60 off the lot. The dread I felt back then is impossible to express. But to Luke that bike was his pride and joy. He was beaming the biggest smile when I took a picture of him with the bike a week later to send back to his dad and friends in Montana.
There was a problem with the bike and we shipped it off to Montana to be repaired by a Yahama shop there. The bike was still being fixed in Montana when Luke decided in March of 2005 to return to Montana himself. He wanted to be back near his good friends and in the part of the country he loved. Luke didn't move back to his home town in north central Montana. Intead, he moved to where his grandmother lives in the mountains on the northwestern corner of the state; a little mountain town named Whitefish. It's a beautiful little town at the base of Big Mountain, which sits on the edge of Glacier Park. Big Mountain was Luke's favorite place to snowboard. It is where he learned to ski starting at three years old. Luke moved in with his grandmother (whom he named Mimi when he was a year old), and within a month or so, he had landed a job with another electrician. He was very happy with his new boss and job, but mostly he was happy to be in the same area as his best friend, Chris. Luke had other good friends from high school who had moved to that area of Montana as well. He was also happy to be spending time with his Mimi, and she was glad to have her grandson around.
The repairs on Luke's motorcycle were finally completed and he got it back on July 2, 2005. His younger brother and I were visiting Montana in June and had to leave on July 3rd. I didn't even get to see Luke the last day we were in town as he spent that day meeting his hours away to get his motorcycle back. He returned later that evening and we met his friends and parents for dinner. Little did I know that would be the last meal I would ever have with Luke. Ironically, the name of that establishment was The Finish Line.
We were back home in Florida only three weeks when the nightmare began. I talked to Luke every day of his last week on earth. Every time I thought of him, I had a terrible premonition. I couldn't understand what I was feeling. I was compelled to call everyday when I knew his work day was done. In one of those conversations, Luke was so proud. He reported that he just received his third raise since working for this company (only 3 months). On Friday, July 29th, I spoke to Luke for the last time. I called him a little before 6:00 p.m., just before I was leaving the house. I was running late, but took the time to call anyway knowing Luke would just be getting home from work. It was a short, but very warm conversation. Love you, Luke...love you too, Mom. They were our last words to each other.
That entire day I felt deeply depressed and it went on through Saturday. At 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon, I received a call from my mother. All she did was say my name and I knew the worst had happened. I didn't even let her speak...all I could do was yell, "MOM! TELL ME THAT LUKE IS OK"....and then she said the words I had been dreading...."I can't do that". She went on to explain that Luke was killed instantly around 12:30 a.m. early Saturday morning while riding the motorcycle home from the very establishment where I had said goodbye to him on July 2nd. He was riding toward his grandmother's on Highway 93 between Kalispell and Whitefish, Montana. The authorities believe a deer or some animal must have ran across Luke's path. When he veered to miss the animal, he hit the dirt and rocks on the side of the road and could not recover. I was told that he was killed instantly upon impact. I hope with all my heart that was true as they didn't find his body until 8:30 a.m. the following morning.
Luke had less than a month to enjoy riding his beloved motorcycle once he had it back again. It meant everything to him, yet I was sad and frustrated that I couldn't talk him out of purchasing it the summer before. I was reminded by his brother, Michael, that Luke's greatest passion was his motorcycle - if his time in this world had to run out, Luke wouldn't have asked for a more perfect exit. I just wish it didn't have to be so soon. I just wasn't ready.