Two good guys

Ben and I got back from New York late Saturday evening. It had been a very long and arduous week of antibody therapy so we were both beyond exhausted. Nothing more than sleep was on our immediate agenda.

Sunday morning, Matt loaded up the canoe while the rest of us slept like a bag of rocks. We were eventually coerced into leaving the safe haven of a nice, warm bed by the fact that we’d be going up to Summit County to canoe with our good friend, Gil. Oh, and stop by Krispy Kreme to get some doughnuts before heading to the mountains.

It’s always nice to see Gil. I’ve known him for many years. He and his wife, Susan, retired to Frisco, Colorado in the mid-90’s. They have a beautiful home that offers stupendous views of Buffalo Mountain and the first two peaks of the 10 Mile Range. It’s absolutely breathtaking.

Sure, they have a beautiful home in a prime spot that affords easy access to skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. That, in itself, is a rare jewel. But to know Gil, well, he is simply an incredible man. He loves having people visit. He loves teaching children (he taught Ben how to ski). He loves nature. He just loves.

And, 30 years ago today, he died.

He was struck by lightning in Ohio 30 years ago while out on a golf course. On the 17th hole. Right in the head. His body was thrown from the golf cart and his clothes were nearly blown off of him. He was dead for about four minutes. Fortunately, the other members of his party were able to perform CPR until help arrived. Gil woke up several days later in the hospital. Once he learned what had happened he figured he had the best excuse in the world to do some crazy, off-the-wall stuff.

His idea of crazy and off-the-wall is to embrace life and all that comes with it. He is no stranger to the trials that life has to offer but he sorts through it with a peace that I sincerely admire. I absolutely love being “grasshopper” to his “Master Po”. I look forward to learning how to love as greatly as he does. I certainly couldn’t have a better earthly teacher.

So, Sunday, Gil showed us an eagle’s nest while we were out canoeing. That, in itself, was pretty darn cool. But when we saw two eagles soaring majestically against the backdrop of mountains, well, that was pretty flippin’ awesome. In all my years of loving nature I’ve never seen eagles in the wild until Sunday. It’s a memory that I will treasure for the rest of my life. At least until I develop Alzheimer’s and lose all my precious memories. 😛

I have quite a lot a precious memories that involve my dear friend, Gil. And had he died 30 years ago it would have been a tragedy for me. Sure, I wouldn’t know what I was missing out on – I was only 12-years-old 30 years ago and didn’t meet Gil until I was 30 – but knowing what I know now my life is “much more better” because Gil has been a part of it. He is such a blessing.

We left a nice day with a dear friend to head back to Denver. When we arrived there was a message waiting for me from a high school friend relaying some horrible information: one of our beloved classmates had died Saturday while on vacation with his family in Michigan. He drowned while swimming.

Andy, or “Andyman” as he was known in Columbus, had died. He was 42. A graduate of WMHS class of ’86. Voted “Most Talkative”, which certainly fit since he was a popular disc jockey for CD 101 in Columbus. He was married to Molly and had three sons, one who was born within this past year. It was shocking and absolutely unbelievable that Andy was gone.

I met Andy when we were six-year-old first graders at Kirkersville Elementary. When I think back on those early memories of Andy I always think of the size disparity between the two of us. I was really short and he was really tall. But once kids move past comparing the physical attributes of one another and learning about what makes a person who they are, well, the word that comes to mind to describe Andy would be “kind”. He was a gentle giant. A kind-hearted soul. He loved the Beatles. He loved to sing. I’m pretty sure he performed at King’s Island one summer as Elvis. Music was his thing. And he made it his life’s work. I’m sure he was living a life he absolutely loved when it was cut short this past Saturday. While I’m terribly sad that Andy is gone I can take some comfort knowing that he loved his life. He lived it to the fullest. Andy made such an incredible impression on his community and he will be sorely missed.

I’m having a hard time finding balance. I know my immediate job is to get Ben through this cancer hooey and Madeline through living in the shadow of Ben’s cancer hooey. Other than that I feel pretty darn unhappy. I’m not a fan of the life I’ve been living and am pretty upset in general with the “Big Man Upstairs”. I am not skating through my quagmire of a life with the grace that I’d like to be showing. Maybe I’m doing okay from an external standpoint, but internally, I’m a big old mess. Like a Seurat painting. Up close it doesn’t look like much but from far away it looks okay. Just don’t get too close to me. I won’t let you anyway.

Grief is getting the best of me. I’m tired of loss. It seems like every celebration is counterattacked by a tremendous setback. And I just can’t find the grace right now to get me through.

Yes, I’m celebrating the fact that my good friend Gil didn’t die 30 years ago today. But I’m stupefied by why Andy, a man that personified love – for his family, his friends, and his life – had to leave so early.

It’s a crazy world. Someone oughta sell tickets.

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