Unexpected Inspiration

While walking the Camino de Santiago, strangers help strangers by sharing a coffee con leche, providing a patch for a blister, or just listening to a good story. If you really think about it, stories are all that really connect us to each other. My story today is about attending a celebration of life for a stranger. The survivor is a dear friend of mine, but I never met the man that passed. There is a connection to this missive from an earlier post. If you have time, click to read before you proceed.

Fall weather in Boise is always unpredictable, but Sunday broke the mold. Large blasts of wind stripped the weak color from the deciduous trees. A flurry of white flakes made their annual debut followed by violent and pelting hail. Blue skies showed up at intermission to remind me that everything was OK. Sunday provided an opportunity for friends to say goodbye to Trey. I think the weather was his bold signature on a thank you note.

The celebration was held at the beautiful Barber Park Events Center on the Boise River. The main road took me into the park and allowed a glimpse of the low water level. There is something serene about a river preparing for winter. When I turned into the lot, every spot was taken and a steady stream of people were funneling into the stone building. I always arrive early and was lucky to find a seat in the back row next to Carlos and Diane. It was my first “standing room only” service.

I always knew him as Trey, but hearing the last name, Knipe, at the service erased the stranger status. His step-brother is a friend from kindergarten. His brother’s contagious smile always greeted me at Angels Bar and Grill. His imposing father was a regular at a restaurant that employed me in high school. The root of this family was an old log cabin that perched above the famous Sylvan Beach on Payette Lake. I am willing to bet that the cabin has seen the best and worst of the Knipes, but was always the glue for the clan. From puberty to death, being part of that family involves sand between your toes and dock slivers in your feet.

At least eight people spoke at the service and introduced me to this man. Cancer cut his life short, but he packed a lot of experience into condensed time. The general themes were that he lived with gusto, thrived in all endeavors, and was a natural leader. Financial success allowed for many toys, but the disease opened a new door to a spiritual world. I think he flew into this space just like he did everything else in life. In a grandiose manner.

His lover, Shelly, brought down the house with a beautiful poem that combined ear to ear smiles and wet eyes into one reading. Trey’s future son-in-law shared a story about fishing expeditions that included a tale about about missing Trey on the last trip. His elderly uncle spoke without a script and from the heart. A brother-in-law tugged at my heart when he told the surviving children to call him for support, but to drive to the lake when they needed their father. Apparently, Trey never complained and never stopped living until he passed.

I went to the service to support my friend. I left feeling like I had lost a damn good friend. I aspire to lead a life that will allow a stranger to miss me in death.