Sunday, January 16, 2011
I am in the beautiful Rocky Mountains this weekend. I am here for an important reason, but one that makes me deeply sad. I came with my family to honor the life of a man who blessed us for thirty years with his friendship, generosity and a focused zest for life and God’s creation. He went to meet Jesus in October in the state of his birth. I was not able to attend the funeral. But friends from Colorado gathered this weekend in a mountain chapel, where he had played the piano with surgical skill and gusto, to say good-bye. I cried. I smiled. I looked out the window at the slopes.
After the service, we went snowshoeing. The crisp air was rest, therapy, life. The view was beautiful but bittersweet. Were it not for this man and his family, I would not know Colorado. The beauty of this place would not be a cache of memories and foundational moments in my understanding of who God is, who I am, and what is possible in this life. So as I stomped around in the snow, I breathed little “Thank yous” for a life, too short but so full.
“The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field . . . But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—“ Psalm 103: 15-17
something I wrote in his final days:
Today I am praying, from the deepest part of me, for a family friend. They recently increased his morphine and stopped giving him food. He is in incredible amounts of pain and the people who would know say it is time. I cannot go to say good-bye so I ride my bike in the basement and pray. And think about how this man poured precious time and resources into my life. He flew us to Sea World in his plane. He played piano at my wedding and complimented my husband on his ‘exquisite taste’. He gave me his giant slalom skis when he upgraded.
I followed him down long sweeping stretches of the Colorado mountains in wide arcs, shoulders squared against the incline, knees bent, skis chattering with glorious speed. I loved those skis. The ones with his name engraved on them. I still have them.
But what I hold the closest, what squeezes my throat so I cannot breath, is the long rides up the chairlift. These where the times when he would ask about my school work and listen for the answer. He would tell me stories that said, “You are smart and able, so I will tell you some things you will need to know about this life.” A week away from the public high school, in the crisp Rocky Mountains, with toes pointed over the brink of a Black Diamond, is a beautiful gift to give a young girl.
I pray and picture us riding the chairlift again. It is sunny. The chair swings slightly and the sound of accumulated snow, falling from the taller limbs, echoes around and up. We talk. The chair slows to let us off and I curve to the left like always. But he waves, pulls on a hood and goes right. Into the back country. Through perfect powder, towards the thin trail of smoke rising from the stone chimney of a great timber lodge where he will sit with Jesus, warming cold bones by the stone hearth, waiting for his wife, daughter and granddaughter and the table he chose by the window.