A name and a few numbers cemented to the pages. No color, no raspy voice worn out from years of storytelling and the shouting of opinionated slurs, no smell of stale pipe smoke…no life. The headlines and ink smears have been robbed of the adventure and the love and the music that you are.
They tell us the world is a cruel place and our hands must be used to climb the ladders of societal success, trumping over all others so we can be the best. But you have showed us that hands are made for healing the pains of the world. The best hands are those calloused with labor and love. Worn from days of becoming one with the soil we walk and the plants we consume; warm from the touch of another souls’ skin no matter how dirty or torn. A hand should never fear what is different or unknown. A hand must constantly reach out and embrace every ounce of life if we are to understand our relationship to all that is beyond the stars.
They tell us that our eyes should be open, always on guard for those trying to cheat and rob us. But you taught us to close our eyes and dream. You told us truth is found in the places eyes can’t see, and you reminded us that our hearts will guide us on journeys through untamed fears and uncertain worlds. You reminded us that if we listen, if we trust, we will reach the precipice of light, and there we will see the potential of the world and all that we can be. We will see our connection to all that feels the graceful brush of the wind and the violent fury of the currents, and this vision incites a power within us that allows our dreams and realities to be one.
And so it goes that they tell us our feet are made to sprint through life, moving from this stage to the next until there is nothing left. Hurry! Run through childhood, run from your imagination—it will only slow you down—run through college and while you’re running be sure to pick up a degree that will guarantee you a job, run to the house and the fence and the mortgage…never slow down. And then the race is done. But you said, “Wait dear child. Don’t forget to walk. See that snail? It’s in no hurry. Just taking its’ time to get from here to there, enjoying every ray of sunshine and every centimeter of shade. You know we get energy from the sun, but some people are moving too fast to feel its’ warmth? Once you get moving too fast you’ll forget that your mind was made to create. Never abandon your childhood because children are wise and pure. They know the world. The preservation of childhood is our greatest hope.”
And when it comes to love they say guard your heart, don’t let anyone too close. But you would simply laugh at their words and say you wished they had the joy you have. You told us never to forget to love. Love everyone and everything. Every blade of grass, every insect, every person. Take time to massage the pregnant African Fat Tailed Gecko, and time to come home early from work to dance with your love. Take time to listen to the stories of your neighbors, and time to play in the mud with your kids. Take time to climb a tree, and time to cast a line in the river.
You have defied what they teach us in school for your life proves myths are all but false and legends are walking among us, inspiring strength and passion.
With a wisdom as ancient as life itself you took me to the woods and taught me to listen to the spirits of the forest. You told me each living entity has a soul, a soul that is constantly speaking and growing and connecting to all that is around it. “Be sure to thank the trees and the water,” you told me. So I learn to appreciate life, and when the world becomes too much I go to the trees and I find comfort knowing they understand. As I sit in the forest I thank the trees just as you taught me to do when I was young, and I feel their spirits emerge in the darkest of nights, teaching me black is not bad and illuminating a world of comfort and peace, where most people find nothing but fear.
And your experiences taught you life is hard and not always fair, and people hurt each other, but through your stories of war and racism and abuse, all I learned was love would prevail and good was stronger than bad. I knew this must be true through your tears. Each tear told stories with depths greater than the seas. Each tear was evidence that you heard and felt the histories that have destroyed so many lives. Whereas textbooks would neglect those faces, you would forever carry them with you and pass them on to us, and us onto all those that we meet. A single man’s tears for the world are songs of resilience proving the necessity of justice and compassion and change. So we collected your tears and use them to propel us forward with conviction and strength, eager to fight for those who are too often unheard and unseen. And we too cry as we learn histories untold and unchanged, but you lived by example, proving to us that crying is evidence of humanity, not a sign of weakness. So we cry, just as we laugh, with all those who share this earth.
And you had that chair and that pipe and that stove and those opinions in that room you and grandma filled with love. “The world is crazy out there. Don’t go get yourself killed,” you would advise me. “I wasn’t planning on it,” I would reply, and you would worry, and then you would tell me I won’t always be a communist and someday I may want to get a gun because who knows what the future holds, and I would argue I’m a pacifist, and you would worry some more. You would tell me this man is corrupt and that man is a liar and the world is doomed if things continue as they are. And I’d get you some coffee and you’d tell me I was a good kid and I’d be alright and I knew you still had faith in people somewhere beneath your haggard beard and your torn flannel shirts. So we would switch the topic to your cat and what a good cat he was and how smart he was and how you needed to chop more wood for your stove because the cat likes to have the doors open so he’s free to go in or out despite the freezing temperatures. And we would laugh. And you would tell me not to get killed in the crazy world, and I assured you even if I died, it was a beautiful ride and you said the same for yourself.
It was always then, after the politics, that you would tell me no matter what’s happening in the world if you can find someone to share the evolutions of life with then the world will forever be flourishing with beauty and color. And you’d look into the distance as if she was there dancing in the room with us. It was the same look I remember as a kid—the look of unconditional admiration and love. A love so true that that all those around you could feel it. An unwavering love that makes Disney princesses fall to their knees in prayer for something that real and good. And for the two of you every day was an adventure, a blessing necessary of thanks to all the gods that ever were, or ever will be. Once more your bodies are intertwined among the stars, never to be separated again.
Now, like a Cherokee myth, you have vanished from this world but your life beats on through the vibrations that guide us. Just as we used to dance for the rain with dirt on our faces and braids in our hair, we now bow our heads to the ground in gratitude for the songs you taught us to hear in the smallest of pebbles and the grandest mountain peaks, and the rains fall to fill the wells and we know you’re here.
--with hope in their heart