Seasons Of Life

Its sad and weird to be talking about the passing of a freind, a brother, a tribe member. We are still so young.

The first I heard was the day after, when Randy called to say that Hiatt was the first of our brotherhood to pass from this life last Sunday. He was a prominent member of our small tribe; a group of guys who have history together, many all the way back to elementary school. These are relationships that have made us all better in many ways!

Hiatt, in my estimation, was the Alpha of our group once we all arrived at Hinsdale Central High School and perhaps even at the convergence of elementary schools at the old Junior High. Being an Alpha was no small thing among a group of leaders in a community of achievers. — perhaps fostered some deep sense of responsibility in him.

If he was alpha then I was zed. He was good at everything, sports and school and making friends. His charm and charisma extended beyond the football field, he was a guy, that guys wanted to be, and girls fell for. I was the opposite.

The reason I share this contrast is that we became brothers despite our differences. It happened in the Canadian wilderness and over the course of several memorable canoe trips that bound us unexpectedly.

In the woods we were equals, paddling on the vast freshwater lakes, trudging across many challenging portages and contemplating under the stars. We talked about life and its greater meaning, of faith and what that meant to us, and about the splendid and divine complexity of nature and its revelation of the hand of God.

In the summer of 73, before the shooting, Hiatt and I took an epic canoe trip from Ely to the other side of the Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park We had four and a half days of constant rain and overcast skies, muddy portages, mosquitoes, wet sleeping bags, and difficult fires at night near the shelter of our tarps and tent.

Our two-man-tribe sunk into grumbling disappointment, in the misery of our saturation, knowing that we could have been home drinking beer and hanging out with our other friends. It seemed like years since we had laughed. We began to regress like the survivors in Lord of the Flies; killing chipmunks by throwing our sharp knives. Knives we named “Buck” and “Snake”, who became characters in our strange drama, perhaps reflecting the alter egos of our darker selves.

On the afternoon of the fifth day, we stood on a rock at lake Kawnippi when the sun came out. Its’ power was so great the moisture from our clothing rose in a mist, up to meet the parting clouds. I’ll never forget looking over at Hiatt who hadn’t smiled for days. That big, warm, taunting smile of his was as welcome as the sunshine. The warmth and the joy had returned to him and me. We laughed again and said to each other it had been a great trip. Everything was worth it in the end!

He will be missed.

Last Wednesday I woke up around 2:00 in the morning and thought of Hiatt. I had not yet cried for the loss of my old friend, but now the tears came. Not only tears but some deep groan from within my spirit. What kind of friend had I been? I remember the last time I saw him, on a boys trip about ten years ago.

Him driving up from the Southeast in his perfectly restored Cherry Red Porsche, his Gandalf the Grey hair blowing in the wind on the road to eternity.

On November 22nd, 1975, the anniversary of the day Kennedy was shot, Hiatt and two other friends were shot in the parking lot of a bar just outside of Hinsdale. Hiatt got the worst of it. The bullets changed the trajectory of his life. Had I?

He will be remembered.

We have a Jasmine tree that travels from our sun-room to our deck and back each year. It has been in our care for eleven years to the surprise of the nursery that now tells me they are hard to keep alive.

Each summer it blossoms and blooms, sending out the smell of incense and honey, many times over. At the end of summer it’s brought inside bigger, stronger, and healthier. However by the end of winter it always struggles, leaves falling, branches dying. The worst of it is the attack of the scale bugs. A growing army of tiny insects, slimy dark disk like parasites, slowly sucking the life out of the tree, each day.

So it is by hand, each spring, we wash the bugs from leaves that still live, over and over, and this buys time to get the tree outside where we can pour systemic pesticide into the soil, across the feet of its roots, up into its sap. It is this poison, medicine really, that gives life back to the tree, by taking it away from the blight of dirty mindless creatures wanting to steal its splendor.

The Jasmine tree reminds me of life and its struggle. And for the Jasmine in our home, if it wasn’t for the care it received, the cleansing of its infection, the restoration of its vitality — its life would be shorter. But each summer it survives again, its beauty shared again, and its pleasing aroma hangs in the summer air behind our home and among our friends.

We are the tree and we are its keepers.

Hiatt brought beauty into this world, and into our lives. He cared for us and we for him.

He will be remembered. He will be missed.

Like all of us, he is in God’s hands.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” -John 1:1-5

Today’s reading.