Famous in a Small Town: Kyle

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If you are a follower of my blogs, then you will know that I have recently fallen in love with my small town again. I have had a love/hate relationship with my town for the entirety of the almost 25 years that I have lived here. Recently, I have discovered that I appreciate the quiet, the open space, the abundance of wildlife, and, in my case, the virtually drama-free state of my little cultisac. I mean, it is already well-known that Colorado is one of the coolest states ever, (that is why so many are flocking here), but there is so much more to the red-state than the majestic Rocky Mountains, our Superbowl 50 Champions: The Broncos, and legalized marijuana! Sometimes it may seem to be hard to find, but nestled away in little pockets all over the state, are these tight-knit small-towners who have known each other for most of their lives and still tend to cluster, still think of each other as family–The Elizabethians!!

Now I am absolutely sure that my small town isn’t the only group of people who still claim their hometown friends, still live with their hometown friends, and who only seem to party with their hometown friends–no matter what city they are in, or whether they intentionally ran that far away just to escape the hometown friends! Despite everything, Elizabethians still tend to travel in packs. We gravitate towards each other, and we cannot seem to escape nor forget. There may be different groups scattered here and there, but when we gather, we GATHER!! And I love it.

Me “loving it,” wasn’t always so. It was another of those love/hate aspects of being an Elizabethian. But, like several other characteristics that I had once loathed about my town, I have very recently come to absolutely adore this quality. How? Where? At one of the most unlikeliest–or at least surprising–of places: A fellow Elizabethian’s funeral.

Exactly one month after I passed the 6-year anniversary of my mother’s death, the Elizabethian community suffered another loss–Kyle. (I will not include his full name, nor his picture, out of respect for the family’s privacy.)

Kyle was honestly the most genuinely joyous people that I had ever met. Witty, outgoing, and a bright engaging goofy smile that you just couldn’t help but return. He was a jokester, and he had a knack for making people laugh despite their best intentions. His own laugh was hilarious all on it’s own–a pure chortle that just invited returned giggles. Even when he was getting into trouble, he’d manage to make the authority figure laugh, or smile, or at the very least, take away their fire so as to make them slightly guilty instead, that they have to punish such a likable guy. In fact, the former in-school-suspension-supervisor was the pastor for his funeral, and there was nothing but love from his lips. Yes, pastors are supposed to only spout love, but knowing this man personally, I could tell that he genuinely liked Kyle. But who didn’t? Kyle was golden. A truly beautiful soul. Obviously not perfect, but just one smile or stupid joke, and he could melt the coldest heart, ease the most bitter pain.

The turn-out was utterly amazing for this guy! It was a sizable church, and we had it packed! A lot of people had to stand. A lot of tears. A lot of familiar faces. But what really surprised me was the generational span of Kyle’s mourners.

Three years separated Kyle and I in age, maybe four in grade, but I was not the oldest of his high-school acquaintances, and Kyle’s age group definitely was not the youngest. If I had to venture a guess, I would say at least twelve years of Elizabethian graduates attended! I mean, I am Class of ’02, and I recognized some of my brother’s class, which is Class of ’10, and even younger. How can a person be loved by that vast of an expanse of ages? Because he was Kyle. And because we are Elizabethians. And this particular faction of alumni, is one of the largest and close-knit. I cannot even begin to comprehend how many hugs I gave and received yesterday. How many, “Oh my gawd! How have you been?” ‘s that I heard. It was beautiful. And I know that there were a few bad feelings for particulars–grudges–that have endured throughout the years for a few of this giant group of people, but it did not matter. None of that mattered, because of Kyle. At least, that is what I think. We were all united in the loss of Kyle, and we were united in remembering Kyle for the type of person he was.

I’ll admit, I was not as close to Kyle as most of the people there (I was on the outskirts of the cool kids until my brother initiated me once he became a cool kid, hahaha!). Kyle and I rode the same bus. However, what got him a permanent place in my heart, was that he never forgot me and never turned on me. Whenever I saw him, I was rewarded with his bright goofy smile, and an embrace that made me feel like I was loved and cherished. Maybe he really did love and cherish me–or maybe he was just that awesome, that he made everyone feel loved and cherished. Which in turn, made people love and cherish him. Never before have I seen such an amicable anything (least of all service), with that diverse of a crowd. Yeah, we all know each other, but still…

So Kyle, you have once again performed an act of beauty–you made me love being able to call myself a part of this particular crowd of Elizabethians. We probably are one of the craziest groups–wild and weird and down for whatever. Thankfully, by putting ourselves in the situations that we have, we are even more connected because we have seen each other at our very worst, and we still have love. Thank you Kyle. You will be sorely missed by so many hearts. To truly know you, was to love you. Just can’t help it.

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Goodbye Pat and Goodbye 2015

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I have never been so relieved to have a year come to an end!  For the most part it was a good year but the end was one of the roughest times of my life.  The whole month of December was kind of awful for a myriad of reasons but the toughest moment came the day after Christmas when our good, family friend Pat passed away.

My family moved in with Pat who was around fifty at the time, when I was a little girl.  We had just moved back from California and had no money, no prospects and no where to live.  Pat was at that moment, and for the rest of his life, our guardian angel.  He was unfailing kind and generous, sweet and playful.  He was the best of friends and the best of people.  He lived with my family for the rest of his life and died in his own bed at my parents house.

He was what some might consider an unremarkable man who lived a remarkable life, filled with tragedy and loss and ultimately redemption and love.

The thing that was so very remarkable about Pat once you got to know him  was how happy he was with so little.  In our modern view, the gifts that life gave him were so pitifully few, he was never in love (the one date he ever went on ended with getting kicked out of his house for dating) he never had children or a high powered career, he wasn’t famous, he didn’t change the world.  And yet in all the time I knew him he never shed a tear (he said he had cried all his tears when his mother died), he never complained about the life he was given, he never forgot to say thank you for even the smallest gesture of thoughtfulness.

I’m not really sure if understanding the life he lived makes his unfailing contentment more or less amazing.  He lost his mother at age seven and was sent to an orphanage with his brother.  A couple of years later he lost his father as well.  He continued in the orphanage until he was adopted by some cousins but even that  was shortlived and he time and again ended up homeless on the streets of Detroit.  He though about becoming a priest but was disillusioned by the hypocrisy he witnessed while working around the order.  He went into the army and was one day away from shipping out to Vietnam when he contracted double pneumonia and was eventually given an honorable disability discharge.  He had a mental breakdown a few years after he left the army and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent some time in an institution.  He moved to Colorado and ended up buying a house for his beloved poodle Blackie.  That was the only reason that he bought the house because he wanted his dog to have a home and a yard and so he provided them.   Some time later he started going to the church my father worked for and that was how we met him.  When we moved back from California, homeless and desperate, we found out that his dog had died and he was terribly lonely and heartsick over his dog’s passing.  The pastor of the church thought it might be a blessing for him to have some companionship and it was undoubtedly a blessing for us as well.  From that day on he was a part of our family.

Time and again life gave him obstacles and problems that he saw for what they really were, gifts.  The pneumonia that wrecked his lungs and was the foundation for a life time of lung problems wasn’t a curse it was the blessing that saved him from the horrors of war.  The death of his beloved pet was the reason our family came to stay and he finally got the love and friendship and the home that he had never had.  It didn’t make him bitter that life had been so hard because he knew the worst that could happen, he’d lived through it, and the qualities of character and personality that caused him again and again to seek a life of service and a purpose in helping others, helped him to remain happy and positive and unfailingly grateful.

There have been so many lessons I’ve learned from Pat in our life together but his last lesson and gift to me (and one that I needed more than ever as I dealt with the loss of him) was that this too shall pass.  Pat lived a life blighted by pain and suffering for the first two thirds of his time on earth but the last third, though it maybe didn’t make up for or remove those lost years, did give him something he’d always wanted, a home, a family and unconditional love.  I imagine it would be all but impossible for me to experience the amount of loss and devastation  in my life that Pat suffered but even if it did, the memory of how he dealt with that loss and the knowledge that it did eventually get better will stay with me through anything.

So goodbye Pat, I loved you and I will always miss you.

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