It’s befitting that I stand here now on a diminishing Halloween afternoon. Hours ago, family and friends hovered near, all collectively somber and looking for solace in the dried grass and impervious headstones. There’s nothing more dangerous than the familiar terrain of the faces of friends and family while we are gathered to dismiss someone from this realm. It’s easier to look away or to retreat inside oneself.
I didn’t even know of your death until today, when someone said, “X, you’re not going to believe this. He died. Butterfinger died.”
We weren’t friends in the traditional sense. But we shared some outrageous moments, most of them fueled by your ability to go places most people would hesitate to cross. There were times when our shared laughter lifted us up to heaven, raucous and not befitting polite company. Life, though, it thrived in those moments. It had no choice and I couldn’t help except to laugh harder as you dared to strangle the oxygen from around us.
After a death, we think we know a person or have gauged the sum of what they were. No matter who you are or who they were there is no escaping that we are simply floundering around with our presumption of knowing them. It is a rare thing for people to congregate after a death and all agree that they share a clear picture of who someone was while they walked amongst us.
As we often do, we personalize a death and transpose ourselves, wondering how wrong people will have been about us. It’s a human tendency, one powered by the relentless ticking of the clocks we all pretend to not hear. I think of all the hats I’ve worn and of the distinct ways I’ve touched people, for good or ill. Depending on your perspective, you measure me with hate, admiration, humor, seriousness, apathy or total disregard. We all leave different maps behind us, often several of them; often, many don’t align. Our friends and family are left to conjure some semblance of reason from the mismatched versions of ourselves in the puzzle pieces. It’s not so much a question of who is right or wrong. Rather, it is one of the complexities of our lives and personality as we overlap with differing groups: work, church, family, and friends.
While I can’t speak for everyone, I honestly mean it when I say that I pass inordinate amounts of my life without sharing anything essential of who I am. Of course, I can explain it away by using words such as “business,” or “work,” or whatever other label excuses our inability to properly enjoy our lives as the human beings we are. People who know me in these moments of expected impersonal interactions will have no means to measure me, though they struggle to do so.
Having the reputation of being someone with an exaggerated sense of dark humor, I swear an oath to you that I don’t use these words accidentally or lightly. While I am no speaker for the dead, I am not one who enjoys the idea of failing to pay homage to the totality of all the people who lived inside a single person. I embrace the idea of the breadth of someone’s life, even if some of it doesn’t lead to the glorification of our potential. We all know and recognize that almost all of our life is comprised of little moments and many of those most enjoyed in retrospect are not ones we would wish everyone to see.
Butterfinger, though, he was a strange creature, powered by the touch of the strangest humor and affections. Because I didn’t have a Venn diagram between the sliver of life I shared with him and his other realms, I can’t speak to those other spheres. But I can say without qualification that in the sense that I knew Butterfinger, he was alive in the truest sense, though many would not understand him in this regard. Were he an angel, it would be one prone to mischief and fun-loving devilry.
I’m not here to argue about who he was, what motivated him, or even the significance of his relatively short life. I’m here to tip my hat at a crazy angle toward his outlandish laugh and smile.
Goodbye, Butterfinger. May your first night in the soil bring forth the warm remembrance of all the zaniness that I remember you for. May your memory be confirmed and conformed to each of us, all of whom knew a piece of you as you ambled about on the surface of this planet.
I’ll stop by another day and place a Butterfinger on your little piece of the earth. And I’ll probably laugh like a dark bastard as I do so.
No disrespect – only remembrance. In a life of small moments, it is more than sufficient.