Saturday, June 21, 2014

This is Chase Clark

There is an animated movie most of you should be familiar with called The Incredibles. It’s about a family with superpowers who were put in “hero protection” because society no longer wants superheroes and if people knew their true identities they would be persecuted. The young boy in the family named Dash has super-speed ability and is trying to convince his mom to let him go out for track. His mom argues that he would not be able to hold himself back and would reveal himself by running too fast.

Dash replies, “But Dad said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of. Our powers made us special.”

His mom sighs and says, “Everyone’s special, Dash.”

Dash poignantly replies under his breath, “Which is another way of saying no one is.”

I’ve given that bit of surprising logic a lot of thought over the years, pondering again and again when I hear people refer to someone as “special.” People particularly like to use this phrase whenever someone who has hard lot in life perseveres. We often use it when speaking about children who are faced with horrific diseases and also when young people die. We use the word “special” so often, little wondering what we really mean by it and what it is that makes “special.”

But this past week I finally learned what “special” means.

It starts with a young man named Chase Clark.

Now that you know what he looks like, let me tell you some things I know about him.

1)    Chase wears vests over a dress shirt on Sundays. He always has his sleeves rolled up, and he completes the look with a tie. I think vests ought to try for a comeback in men’s fashion. It may be because I know him better than the other young men at church, but his snappy clothes always catch my attention. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s only 16, (and therefore clearly has never worked in a casino), I would expect him to pop out a pocket watch from his vest pocket or maybe a deck of cards. In actuality, he’s more likely to have candy in there instead, which he often sneaks to my children.

2)    “Chase!” belted out by my kids—Iyov in particular—is a sound I can recall very easily in my head with little effort. He is very, very good with little kids—exceptionally good because he enjoys playing with kids. This is not a quality I possess but really appreciate seeing in others.

3)    One time Chase babysat for us, and when Brad and I got back, Chase refused to let us pay him. He literally ran away from me and went home (his family lives three houses down). Brad and I peeked in at the kids and they looked like this:

Brad and I were like, “Whaaaaat happened?” And then we laughed our butts off and put it on facebook. For the record, we have not seen them like this at bedtime before or since.

4)    As the oldest, Chase knows how to annoy his sisters. One time we were over at the Clark’s house for dinner, and we challenged Kami to Monopoly (a game she loves but nobody will play with her because she’ll kick your butt). Chase and his sister Brooklyn played with us, and the whole time Chase bugged the crap out of Brooklyn. She got that high-pitched angsty teenager voice, and kept saying “Stoooop!” over and over. I honestly cannot remember what Chase was doing to her. I just recall thinking, “Wow, he’s good.” and “So this is life with teenagers…”
And then I discovered Chase is pretty much an expert at quickly figuring out how to push anyone’s buttons. I think he hangs on to Momma’s Boy status, just so he can annoy Kami, his mom, and get away with it. :-)

5)    Case in point: Chase likes to sing falsetto in the Soprano section during Choir practice to annoy his mom who is the Choir director. When she puts the kibosh on him, he sits with the bass section who are the rowdy bunch (thanks to Brad), so he can be in on the rabble-rousing. Sometimes he sits with us tenors, and I like elbowing him to get him to stop singing the melody in my ear and messing me up.

6)    Chase is a self-taught musician. Guitar, I believe. I’ve never heard him play though…

7)    I hired Chase to mow our lawn last summer when we went on vacation. He was almost done doing it when the wheel broke off. And once again, when I got back, he ran away from me when I tried to pay him. I honestly don’t think he would have taken it even if he had finished, so I doubt refusing pay had anything to do with not completing the job.

8)    Being introduced to someone and actually MEETING someone are two different things. I was obviously introduced to Chase when I first met his family, but I actually MET Chase the first time we had the Clarks over to our house for dinner. It went like this: I was kind of nervous about feeding them all. Not only are there 5 kids aged (at the time) 5 and up, but Phil (Chase’s dad) had already labeled us “his liberal friends” and was already known for ribbing us for our vegetable-eating, ethical meat-eating ways. (Such honesty, for the record, is our favourite thing about the Clarks) I made a vegetarian Ethiopian stew, which seemed to go over well, fortunately. But my clearest memory of that night involves Chase. Brad and I were talking and laughing about something after dinner with Kami and Phil when suddenly a hand squeezed my shoulder and a voice in my ear said, “Thank you, Sister Kelly. That was so good.” I realized it was Chase, and I was taken completely by surprise. In that moment, Chase became more than Kami and Phil’s oldest son. Funny how such simple things can leave such a lasting impression.

Chase was in a horrific accident on Wednesday of this past week. It involved a semi, which I think tells you just how bad it was. He is alive, but suffered lots of internal injuries and bleeding. But the most worrisome injury was to his head. He is currently in critical condition at a hospital in Minot, being kept sedated and on paralytics to keep him from fidgeting and possibly injuring himself further. With lots of brain swelling to be concerned about, and being unsure of how well his brain will heal, whether there will be long-term effects, how long his recovery will take, etc, waiting is the limbo in which his family is suspended currently.

I happen to be Kami’s visiting teacher*. And Brad is the Clark’s home teacher* (double Kelly whammy for the Clarks). That, and the fact that we are virtually neighbors, means that we’re kind of up in their biz. In a nice way, I think. From the time Kami called to tell me about Chase in the hospital until now, I think I’ve had a rare view of what has transpired among our ward family in the past three days.

I cannot possibly expound on every single act of service on behalf of the Clarks that I personally know about, but I will say that the most pointed demonstration of all of those acts is best summed up in the Ward Fast* that we participated in for him that ended with and filled up our chapel on Thursday night. It was clear, from day one of this tragedy, and each day since, that Chase Clark is beloved on a level that I do not think the Clarks recognized before now.

Chase’s situation is certainly not unheard of. Crap happens to people all the time, and people rally together in support. It’s pretty much what human beings do best. But this is certainly the first time I have been so heavily involved and also aware of the monumental effort that has gone on behind the scenes as well as in the open.

Because I am the neighbour, I have been hanging on to their house key, letting people in for various reasons, taking care of pets, dropping off stuff, etc. Today I went over there to change over a load of laundry. As I passed through the living room, I had a strong desire to just sit down there and start matching up the socks that have been there since yesterday waiting for me. I suddenly realized how much I liked being there—how pleasant it was doing something mundane like matching socks (which I hate doing on any other day in my own home). The house was empty of people, but for whatever reason, it felt incredibly full anyway. I was wondering over this feeling—how could a house that wasn’t mine feel so much like home?—as I went downstairs to grab up the sheets and blankets from Chase's and Boston’s rooms. I was halfway down the stairs when this same feeling came over me even stronger, overwhelming me as if the air were permeated with it. I sat down on the steps, overcome with it to the point of tears. It was then that I finally recognized it as the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.

I’ve heard people say quite often that when a great number of people pray for you, you can feel it. Kami and Phil have said the same thing several times since Wednesday. And I’m telling you, that even though they are two hours away in Minot, that same Spirit has brimmed over to their home as tangible and comforting as if it is drawn to their very belongings, to the space that they call home.

By the end of The Incredibles, Dash finally feels special. But it's not because he can now kick super-villian butt with his super-speed. It's because his Dad has finally let go of the past glory days to realize how much his family matters to him. Dash finally knew he mattered to his Dad for reasons outside of his supernatural talents.

That's what being special is. Being part of others' lives and mattering to them.
Chase Clark is special. Not because he possesses superhuman abilities or earth-shattering skills, but because he’s come to leave a lasting impression on a great deal of people. Whether it was by annoying people just to get a rise to make things more interesting, making kids giggle by wrestling them, or putting his hand on someone’s shoulder and telling them thank-you, Chase matters to a LOT of people. I know this for a fact. I have not just seen it; I have felt it as I found myself alone in his home with the Spirit that has been intensified by the sheer number of prayers and thoughts offered by the thousands who care about him. It is just as clear as the time Chase put his hand on my shoulder. I cannot think of anything more special.

Now that you know Chase, too, will you say a prayer for him and his family? They are special to all of us, and we all want to have Chase back again.

*Visiting Teaching is a program in our church where all women are assigned to visit with other women in our congregation in order to be sure their needs are met.
*Home Teaching is pretty much the same as visiting teaching except it involves men being assigned to other families to visit and attend to their needs.
*A ward fast is fasting done by an entire ward (aka congregation) for one particular cause or purpose for a twenty-four hour period. The bishop of the ward decides if a ward fast is called for. It does not happen often. This is only the second time I have been involved in an emergency ward fast.


  1. I live in San Antonio, Tx. I don't know Chase Clark, Cami Clark, or the kellys. I lived in Williston for a few months and met a few people three or four years ago. Becky Hamrick has been sharing this information on Facebook and I have been following it. I have prayed every night for your family. I am also sharing it on my facebook. I hope for the best and will keep the Clark family and Chase in my prayers. Sending love from Texas.

  2. Chase is my brother's grandson. We aren't close, and I wish we were. I recently "friended" Phil on Facebook in an effort to increase closeness and awareness of my extended family, just days before this tragic accident. Thank you so much for your beautiful words and for everything you have said and done. I think the most wonderful thing about the Church is people like you who are there, as visiting teachers, home teachers, and friends, when family can't be there as much as they wish. May God bless their family, and also all the people who love and care for them at this time.