Calling my parents, Kevin, Brittany to tell them of Lee’s death was the second time in my life I’ve laughed about horrible news. It’s shocking. It’s a bad joke. And the surprising thing wasn’t really Lee’s age. See; I had known him for as long as I can remember, and dying just wasn’t his thing. It seems to violate conservation of energy that someone so active and giddy, borderline hyper, could be still. I mean, he wasn’t even quiet when he slept. His freshman year roommate, Jon Fox, will support this claim.
Lee graduated from Whitworth in three years. He crammed in like 20 credit hours per semester and, of course, came with about 30 credits he had earned in high school. Eventually he was going to move back to Colorado. He’d live somewhere like Silver Cliff, out in the dry country next to the mountains. There would not be many people around, and it’d stay cool. Lee hated heat – he had enough of his own. He was a giant heat generator. I can see him wiping sweat off his brow with his thick fingers. The beds in his house would have quilts on them – this is accurate; I’m not being sappy. He’d fish, wear Carhartts, and squeeze water out of stones.
The fall of freshman year I felt homesick. It was around Thanksgiving break. I went to Lee’s room in Warren – nobody listened to country at Whitworth! So we sat on his bed with the blue-jean quilt (I told you.), and we listened to and sang country songs. This was the “that’s the good stuff,” “God blessed the broken road,” “well, I’m gonna miss her” era. He liked Brad Paisley (or hated him, the details are fuzzy); I liked Garth Brooks. I suggested “save a horse. Ride a cowboy,” and he was disappointed in me. He pulled a pecan pie out of his mini fridge, and we ate it straight out of the tin.
We played on a Frisbee team together. The man could not throw a backhand. He fell once during a game; he was in the end zone. I’m pretty sure he caught the bee. He came up bleeding underneath one eye where he had landed on a pinecone.
Lee took me to look for a geocache in the back forty, crashing through the underbrush. I was wearing my white dancing skirt and flip-flops. He, of course, was wearing a button-up Hawaiian-print shirt, cargo shorts, and Chacos.
He was obnoxiously enthusiastic. When we were at Whitworth, he’d annoy me with his brazen love for Colorado. When we were at home, he’d annoy me with his cheerleading about Whitworth.
Sophomore year I did Whitworth’s Triathlite. I was running up the hill behind Grave’s gym, and I saw Lee and Kevin cheering me on at the top. Kevin was dressed like Kevin, normally. And Lee had on a kilt and knee socks. He was waving a full-size Colorado flag attached to a pool cue like Mel Gibson did in The Patriot – only Gibson’s, as you remember, was an American flag, and they were in a battle for the independence of their country. They met me again close to the finish line, and Lee handed the flag off to me so I could run with it victoriously through the loop.
He liked coffee. He was a real man and liked coffee. I appreciate that.
Since Lee’s died, I’ve heard accounts of him and seen pictures. There are parts of him that I missed completely. There are many pictures on Facebook of him dancing, not by himself, mind you, but always with girls. He was like an undercover ladies’ man. Sly, very sly.
We’ve always just done stuff together, and I’ve missed his cerebral side. Amanda Carlson read, during his memorial service at Whitworth, an email he sent to Amber Craft. I had no idea he could write so precisely or thought in terms like that. Here’s part of what he wrote:
“I’ve been reading the gospels a lot this week, reading stories where Jesus heals the sick and mourns the dead. I’m learning a lot about the ministry of presence, of entering into the crap-storm that is this sinful world, walking alongside the broken-hearted, sharing their broken-heartedness fully. Jesus didn’t worry about ministry tactics, or his role in all that, or hell, even that he was going to raise Lazarus in a few minutes. He embraced the brokenness as just that... and he freaking wept....
“I have to relate a story, though, of how God is working in me right now. I went to Ash Wednesday very down and very angry at God, pissed at sin and brokenness, pissed at life. But God, in that gentle manner He uses when we need gentleness, gave me hope. Not joy, but hope of joy. While we sat inside, marked with the dirty ashes of our sin and brokenness, God laid out a blanket of freshly fallen snow, reminding me that, while the dirty and broken still exists, God covers over all of that with his grace and love. Hmm. As if to prove a point, we now have a foot and a half of snow down, with more on the way in the next day or two. Apparently, God’s grace doesn’t just cover us, but covers us abundantly. That’s my prayer, at least. Talk with you soon.
February 21, 2010
Before this year, I had been in the same city as Lee. I could always get his help or company. And even with him in Cheyenne and me in Spokane, I could call him if, say, my car alarm went off on accident again and I couldn’t remember how to switch it off. And now I can’t call him. And he’s in heaven, but I don’t really know where that is. And that’s hard.
The first time I went paintballing, I was nervous about getting hit. Lee told me, “Just walk down that road a little, and I’ll shoot you.” Thanks, Lee.
And mundane’s ok. I guess, for now, that’s what we’ve got. Bits of everyday life. What God gives us. Lee was thirteen pounds when he was born.