God is a master at showing up in the right place and right time — even when not on the RSVP guest list.
Last week, I drove to St. Louis to say goodbye to a childhood friend cancer took the week of Christmas. Wakes or celebrations of life are beautiful experiences even when COVID postpones them for six months.
Walter and I met as 5-year-olds beneath a plate of cookies his mother handed to mine. Minutes later, we were off exploring a backyard creek. For the next half-century, our lives would intertwine like a strand of DNA.
Six months is a long time to process the passing of a friend. In the meantime, you allow yourself moments to reflect, laugh and occasionally cry. But in the end, humans need those moments to come together and share whatever we are feeling.
In a small stone shelter tucked beneath the arms of a forest of green, more than 100 of us came together. Walter naturally cultivated a beautiful collection of friends with as many facets of interests as there are jeweler’s cuts on a diamond. And on this day, we all came together for an afternoon of meeting one another.
We were all different but remarkably the same. Each of us loved life, loved my friend and couldn’t wait to meet each other.
A large banner hung from a post declaring the space dedicated to “The Walter Party.” Coolers lined up like SUVs circled the concrete pad. Another friend worked a grill to the side, feeding the other empty spot everyone would eventually recognize.
The soundtrack of the shelter featured animated conversations, each grounded in their particular facet and featuring my friend’s name sprinkled in like the essential ingredient of an old family recipe. And in the end, this was his family recipe — Walter, the essential bonding ingredient.
Midwest summer heat is real. Heavy, dead still and drapes across you like spending the day locked in a stuffy closet wrapped in a warm, wet terrycloth towel.
Later, Mother Nature stopped to whip up a quick shower. With the winds dusting up, we pressed together beneath wooden rafters. Facets of interests blended with one another, creating a once-in-a-lifetime jewel.
Minutes later, the showers moved off, and several of us wandered out onto the clearing. The sky glowed in hues of pastels — pinks, oranges and a few I’m sure Mother Nature created on the spot.
Then God showed up.
Looking up, we found ourselves standing in an open field dwarfed by a horizon-spanning rainbow.
Everyone knew what was going on. Laughter and tears broke out.
Turning to my wife and daughter, I buried myself into their shoulders, releasing months of heaving, pent-up pain. When emotions come from so deep, you are a captive passenger until the train arrives at the next station.
With the rainbow wrapped over my shoulders and securely in the arms of the two most important women in my life, I rode the train to the last stop.