Opinion | Biff America: Death, love and sore joints
I was about to hand in this week’s column about discovering a long forgotten inflatable doll in my garage. But after what I experienced last night, that column seems trivial.
A well-loved member of our community recently died. For those who knew Chad Christy, there is no need to go into why he was treasured and will be so dearly missed. For those who didn’t know him, I will say simply that he was kind, generous, charismatic and physically beautiful.
I was not one of his closest friends, but as is often the case with a generous soul, anyone who comes into contact with them feels a special bond and personal connection.
Last night, there were about 100 mourners, in various states of decay that years, lifestyles and recreation leave on a body and face. The ceremony was performed by a man who could be called both formidable and sensitive.
On this particular ceremony, the Catholics, former and current, had a definite leg up. We all were kneeling, squatting, genuflecting around a body of water while the eulogy was offered. The room was filled with many longtime locals for whom many decades of skiing, biking, hiking and labor made kneeling and squatting on concrete painful. But I will say, we papists in the crowd had better muscle memory, learned from years of kneeling at Mass. We all splashed the water and called Chad’s name and stood up stiffly.
Going back in time, almost all in that room had left their homes, families and friends to move to the mountains, many of us decades ago. I can’t speak for all, but along with my family, friends and old girlfriends, I left behind my history and redefined myself at 2 miles above sea level.
Here, in the land of the chosen frozen, we made new friends, started new families and were defined not by how we grew up but rather how we lived and behaved since arriving.
At Chad’s memorial, the room reminded me of growth rings on a tree. I saw former friends from my years close to the center, friends who might live only miles away but whom I seldom see. Further out I saw more recent relationships that are still a part of my life. But the truth is, as we age, many of us become more self-contained and our circle somewhat shrinks.
It sometimes takes the sudden death of a remarkable man to bring us back into one place.
When I looked across that room and saw some of those who were a part of my early years (the center rings of my life’s tree) some of their names, for a second, escaped me, but their influence and stories came rushing back. In that room, we all had countless common dominators: Chad, skiing, biking, mutual friends, former lovers but most importantly a love of our mountain home.
Further out in my personal growth ring I saw current friends and family, some part of the center rings, some not.
I have five siblings: Mike, Calista, Donna, Mark and Martha. I sometimes go years without seeing them face to face, but I love them, know they love me and would do anything for me.
By the same token, there are countless folks whom I have shared moments, days, years of my life with who will always have a place in my memory and heart. We all watched this place grow, evolve (for good and bad, approve or disapprove) but with a common denominator of a gratitude to have been in the right place at the right time, then and now.
Robert Louis Stevenson said, “A friend is a gift you give yourself.” It is my belief that what makes up a community is a collection of friends, current and past, who cherish and give back to a place they live and love.
Last night was a celebration of friends, community and Chad Christy. I am grateful for all three in my life.
Ellie and I walked home that night in the dark holding hands. We spoke fondly of Chad and the beautiful ceremony and walked on without speaking.
She broke the silence by saying, “Hey, what’s the deal with that inflatable doll I saw in the trash?”
That’s a story for another column.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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