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.

We told stories about him.

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:

Dear Lon,

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.

6 thoughts on “Lon

  1. So sad. I have had a few moments when someone I really like has moved on, one way or another, and I know that I wasn’t as generous with my time as I could have been and that had I made a bit more effort that person may still be around.

    I have a friend who lives nearby who left to go a long way away, temporarily I (and her husband) hope. One of the reason she left is that she hadn’t found a kindred spirit in her community and I know I could have been that for her.

    Most of my life regrets are the times I have not been a good friend to someone who, in hindsight, needed what I could offer.

    This is a wakeup call for me, Em, to strive to be more mindful of my offerings to the lonely.

  2. Emily, the part I like best about this post is you saying that he offered you a gift by reaching out. Often we don’t realize that by reaching out, we are making ourselves vulnerable and it is a gift. Love, AL

  3. When you and Charles brought Gus to Australia last June, the visit went so quickly. And after you left – actually as I heard the elevator doors open outside my front door, when you and Gus left our apartment – I wondered why I hadn’t done more, said more, asked more, followed you around, hired a brass band and somehow wrung MORE out of every moment you were here.

    So don’t be too hard on yourself. Whether it’s a friend moving away or someone who dies, we will always feel we could have done more.

  4. Guilt is one of those emotions I don’t spend a lot of time on. Anymore, I should say. I used to be very good at wallowing in it. But at some point, due to some pointed words of a friend, I realized that excessive guilt can actually be selfish. So I don’t spend a lot of time on regret since it’s an endless endeavor. The number of times I’ve wished for 12 or 15 duplicate lives so I didn’t have to choose between paths! But… I did feel sad and guilty about Lon. Not excessively so, because I know there was no way I could give him what he needed. But in this case, the guilt was a good thing to think about for a moment because it made me reconsider what I want in a community and what that means for the way I react to people. It was really hard at first to decide to pull the memorial together because it was something that really close friends and family usually do. But we felt compelled to honor him. And I’m so happy that we didn’t just let it pass. It ended up being exactly the kind of way I wanted to treat him. So in this case, I think the guilt was a really good think to pay attention to. But yeah, I agree, no good comes from dwelling.

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