Monday, May 12, 2008
How do you say goodbye...?
My friend died. He was a fantastic man named "Justin." We didn't have that long with him. Here-- we only had a glimse. He passed away a few weeks ago. It was... a surprise. His passing was... intentional.
On wednesday we are going to have a service for him here in Key West. He wasn't born here and he didn't die here. I asked, when presented with the idea of talking about him at the service, if i could say something. I didn't know which angle I was going to take. I thought for a second if I was qualified to act as a spokesman. Would anyone want to hear from me? Those that heard me were going to be from work--and any emotion or weakness I showed on Justin's behalf may be unprofessional or seen as wildly emotive. After all, I am not a pastor or a family member. I couldn't even save his life. I am about as valued as a seatbelt on an airplane... a "maybe-safety."
I've eulogized before; both of my grandfathers. However, that was over 10 years ago. I was only a shell of the spoken man that I am now. I was a whisper of experience; and but mere trail blazer trying to carve out of our younger and tentative generation. I set the standard, though, of the example I have set in my family as the leader of our generation. Now here I have set myself again--in front of a theoretical crowd of "olympic East Germans." I am not here for a grade or judgement... though the pressure of a grating judgement still looms.
Justin, I wanted to tell you that you were loved. I wanted even more for you to see that you were loved. It was a subtle secret here that you needed assistance. Those that knew you and cared--we reached out to you. You responded with a reluctant and solemn heart. Your tired soul was unable to build up any more walls.
Justin, you gave yourself to us in coversation and mentorship. You planned to surround yourself with us... like a cushion of matresses at the end of a slide for life. We traveled easy roads together. We tilled the soft dirt of a smoke pit and we shared glasses of newborn beer at my favorite brewery. You needed me; not to judge you... but to just be with you. In these moments we lived as kings. This is where we cut through the cobwebs of daily expectaions. We broke bread at my dinner table--an honor not so many share.
Justin, when I called you, you came. I never needed you--I only asked for your honest company. When you were alone, I called you to come join Marisa and I for dinner. I made some pretty decent fajitas. That I can do. You were apologetic and almost seemed to want to qualify everything you did around us. You were so worried--though you never needed be. We could be your armor and your food and your shelter if you needed. These things have been provided to me throughout my life at different times. We need these to survive and it is not too much to ask when you need help. In the end, we ended any evening by sharing vulnerable secrets on the porch. I hate cirgarettes; but I smoked them with you. That's just somewhing we did when we decided to bullshit. When you needed someone to get you-- or when you needed a good group to surround yourself with--you only need call out. We were always there. I thought I could see you getting better.
Justin, in the end you had to leave us. Home with family was a better alternative to watching your soul tarnish and wither in the salt water and dimly lit beaches. You were to head westward and upward. Your family missed you and I know your brother couldn't wait to share a place with you. I helped you pick out the coolest apartment. You needed out of here. We all need out of here sometime. We let you go on training wheels--into the trust that you would wobble and weeble... and find a new foundation.
Justin, you left here on a rocket ship... on a jet pack... on the winds of hope. We left you there. We trusted whomever that recieved you would have your best interests at mind. I know they did. You always had our best interests in yours. I heard that "things" were starting over for you in Denver and that there may have been a "lady-love". I can only hope that she saw you through your better times when we could not.
Justin, someone here thinks about you every day. We think about how your sensitivity and your loyalty impacted us. We are reminded of our own fragility. We stay watchful of the backs of our brothers and sisters. We promise not to take anything for granted. For, like you, and like a candle's flame, our flicker can be gone in a moment. However, the flame in our hearts for you will never be snuffed.