Two girlfriends and I packed up in one of their cars and drove out to Colorado this past weekend to go to the funeral of a dear, old friend...except he wasn't old. He was way too young.
In week before we left, I was handling all those high school memories of him gingerly, like old parchment, afraid it would all crumble between my fingers. Maybe I would crumble. I strained carefully at those faded memory pages, through the blurred lines and found him all over the place, the places where our lives intersected, where he knew my other friends, where the things I learned from him are written into the rest of my life.
You can't go to school with someone for years and years, with only 5-7 people in your class, and not have them be part of the story of your life. He is written into my story everywhere. That smile, that mischievous grin, those overalls, the red hair, basketball games, bus rides, camp, Mexico, skiing...it's all there. And there he is.
I once said to someone that I will forever be grateful to my guy friends from high school for teaching me what I wanted in a man, for teaching me that men with wonderful qualities were really out there in the world, men who could be trusted. I knew I wanted the depth and conversation of P., the faith and integrity of E., and the adventure and steadiness of G..
Yes, Gabe. On June 25th, the Gabe, who taught me adventure and steadiness, went out of this world. All week I had this e.e.cummings poem running through my head:
Tall as the truth
one sweet sun
in it,now with a
flaming billion kinds
His parents described him as a "mountain man," and when we were in high school his favorite catch phrase was, "Let's talk about the forest." He was a man connected to the earth, who saw the wonder of creation and reveled in it. He was outfitting his SUV with a bunk in the back to take his little girl camping. So, I'm glad we went to his farewell in the mountains, in a place that seemed full of his spirit, though he is no longer there.
When we left the funeral home, the clouds broke apart and the sun shone down on us like a gift, and cold, wet raindrops fell from the sky. Heaven's tears. Heaven's healing sun.
We visited the scene of the accident, where he was hit and run off the road by a drunk driver, and I was struck by the peacefulness of the scene. It was so pastoral. So surreal. So unbelievable. But it had his name written all over it. And, again, raindrops splashed on our toes as we walked the length of road.
A great man is gone.