Tuesday, October 6, 2009


A mutual friend drew us there together; same place, same time, his home. Yet when we left the next day, he too, was my friend, and by virtue of how he and his wife lived and had constructed their lives together; I was now therefore also, an extension of their family. No questions asked.

I sat next to him by chance, the warmth of the fire kissing our faces, a crisp fall Minnesota evening. He was worldly, intense, yet gentle, with dancing, piercing eyes and a smile that could light up an entire town. He thought about things before he spoke, asked lots of questions, and when he asked them, sometimes in rapid fire succession, I somehow knew, he genuinely wanted to know my answers.

Once he made sure we were all comfortable in our chairs that night, wine glasses full, fire properly stoked, he picked up his guitar, never missing a moment of conversation, and started quietly tuning, strumming.

It was as though the music made a quiet and yet totally natural entrance, like night creeping in. Eventually we all fell silent, the notes from his guitar falling one into another, the songs slow, contemplative and then crescendoing into something worthy of dance.

He later covered a Willy Porter tune, Watercolor, I quietly sang along, lost in thought, staring off into the trees. He stopped playing after; turned, asked quietly how I knew of him. We talked then, hours, between songs. We shared stories, more wine.

He wanted to know every detail about my son. He wanted one, wanted to know how I did it. Alone. They were the questions that people so often stumbled over, too uncomfortable to ask.

Without hesitation, I willingly shared with him my heart's cobbled together pieces.

He glanced at his wife across the fire as we talked; she laughed, told stories in her own world and yet totally inside his, sipping her wine, glancing up to catch his eyes there, holding them, grinning and then glancing back away.

He could never do that, he told me.
Raise a child alone.

He told me how he lost his parents, both of them, an accident. He said it explained a lot about how he lived like he did, each moment as though it could be his last, that knowledge permanently tattooed there on his broken heart.

I try to make the most of it, every single moment I'm given, in the best way I know how, he told me. And he raised his hands, motioned around, as if to recognize it all, that place, those people, for what it was.

His loss.
Our gain.
These moments.
Each of them, precious.

We'd all stay there, at their home; it was easier, safer. It would be that way from each visit there on. We were their family now too.

John and Ann, Ann and John.

They were fiercely individual and yet so very much a unit: Her: working like a dog. Him: playing like a fiend. Both crazed by their individual passions, pasts and yet insanely an inexplicably drawn to one another in an undertow of love that shone on their faces the instant you met them.

They were the couple you caught making out in the kitchen when one went inside to grab snacks to go with the wine. The two you bust locking eyes across the room hundreds of times each night, holding them there, looking away, and then returning to their respective conversation.

They were fiercely individual, and yet they defined union.

They were quick to tell you that they, together, were not perfect nor were they without their faults, but that yes, they were still perfect for each other, full of gratitude, unconditional love.

They lived together with a grace for which I'll never quite have words; sharing however they could, never taking a moment, an instant for granted. I'd see pictures of them together, get the chills. Never, I'd tell my friends, has a man looked at me like that.

And yet because of them, I secretly believed we all should continue hunting for that kind of love until old age if need be.

Except now John is gone.

Taken tragically from every one of us in a senseless accident one month ago; leaving Ann, his three sons, everyone who loved him to navigate this world, each moment, life... without him.

Their light. Their love. Their fun. Their husband. Their daddy.

It was almost as though someone that insanely good, that kind, that fun, couldn't sing and dance among us forever, and yet...it seems impossible that the party, life could possibly go on for any of us in quite the same way without him.

It won't.

He taught every single person blessed enough to know him how to live.
And now we all stand around wondering what to do now that he's died.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a beautiful post, so very moving.

    Someone once told me that it was always the brightest stars that fade away first. Perhaps it's true. Perhaps the world isn't able to hold too much greatness. It's those that are too full of life that get taken away first. :(