Two weeks ago we had a memorial for a local man who took his life while out of town visiting family. We saw him every week if not every day and on the last time he played several songs for Gus and I on his slide guitar.
He was a big man with beard and gruff way about him. He wore a leather jacket, rode a Harley and volunteered at the library. He also played guitar with several musicians in town.
He didn’t have super close friends or family in town so we weren’t expecting a lot of people at the gathering -but the place was full.
Then we watched a video of him that someone had posted to the web:
And finally, several local musicians played a few songs.
Until we all gathered, I had been walking around with an ache in my heart. To think of how lonely he had been. But that Sunday in the coffee shop was such a wonderful and warm send off. It made me grateful to live in this community and I know he would have loved it.
Here is what I read out on the day:
I didn’t know you very well – we only had a few dozen conversations over the past year but I want you to know that I’m surprised by how much of an effect you’ve had on me.
I think I’ve lived in cities too long and now those ways of interacting feel more natural to me than the ones in a small town. In a city you don’t talk to people you don’t know. You don’t share important things about yourself right away. And you never ask for favors.
But you broke all of those rules with me. When we met here at the coffee shop you skipped right past the small talk and into the good stuff. I know how tough things got financially. I know you loved music but were over the heavy drinking & smoke that comes with playing in bars. And I know you adored your son.
You once told me that I had a good singing voice (which no one ever tells me) and I thought you were just flattering me and I said ‘oh, but it’s not a soloists voice.’ And you said, ‘no, no it’s not –but you are in tune.’ No flattering. No small talk. No bullshit.
It’s like you decided we were going to be friends right away.
I have regrets that I wasn’t a better friend. Yes, regrets. I know you that you were lonely and could have used a whole lot more from me than I could give. And although I believe that that kind of peace ultimately comes from inside, I do wish I would have talked with you more that I did. That I would have taken Gus to go see the library when you insisted. It felt like I said no to you all the time –too tired or too busy.
So I’m sure you have no idea that I feel this way and I want you to know that I noticed you hadn’t been around –long before I heard the news of your death.
I want you to know that I still think I’ll walk in to the coffee shop and find you sitting around the corner on one of the stools next to the window, playing for the Saturday morning crowds.
I want you to know how grateful I am for trying to be my friend. I realize now that that in the simple asking for my time, you were connecting. In the asking itself, there was a giving.
And I want you to know that there’s a Lon shaped hole missing from my daily life now, from my community and from my heart.
I wish you much peace.