“You know our love won’t fade away”
Recently I got an email from my father telling me his friend Kelly had died. Kelly was an exuberant man who never quite fit the model of the mainly conservative wooden boat community of Lake Tahoe. For instance when he wasn’t cruising the lake he was at Burning Man taking in the festivities in an R.V. He had a larger than life persona with a huge smile and infectious laugh and was always real kind to me. Once I won ten bucks off him in a hard fought “one on one” basketball match. Back then I could still handle a ball and Kelly was once a big man at Chico State.
So when Kelly suffered a massive stroke I knew my father was doubly affected. He lost one of his best pals and my father himself had had a stroke in 2004 which he has battled to recover from. I will never forget that day and the following weeks. It was supposed to be a celebratory time for my family as we were set to launch “Odessa” a beautiful 1966 Arabian Century. My dad had worked tirelessly with Dave Wright (who also just passed) to restore my dream boat. They had even run her out on Donner to rave reviews and I was on my way to Tahoe the next day for the launch. That night my dad suffered his stroke alone in his cabin but was lucky enough to dial 9-11. When I arrived at Truckee hospital he was barely able to speak or move hooked up to several apparatus’s. The man who had always represented strength was now struggling to life. Over the next several years he made an inspiring recovery that truly proved his will and is now able to walk well, live independently, and drive a car although I know he wishes for more.
Today I was out roaming on a smoky and windy afternoon. On Tawang side a blaze burned a ring of fire. For some reason I started meditating on the old Buddy Holly song Not Fade Away, a tune I know through Bobby and the Grateful Dead and have heard live several times. As my friend Lisa pointed out the song is more of a mantra, a fact she discovered in a late night jam with some tramps on the outskirts of New Orleans. But what kind of mantra is it? The chorus states, “You know our love won’t fade away” and for more than forty years Bobby has been singing it to millions of people who at the end sing it back to him...This simple tune carries a profound POWER that grows with every performance, a statement on the indestructibility of love. We are all bound for extinction but our essence or the love we create will survive forever. As I sang the song to a congregation of ravens I thought of Kelly and my father and all of us destined for death. We can only hope to foster the connections and emulate the spirit that Kelly created. I hadn’t seen him in years but my brief encounters left me grateful. Whether it was playing hoops or crashing at his cabin unannounced, his generosity, openness, and zest left an impression on me and it’s that attitude I hope to bring into the classroom each day. My heart goes out to Jane his companion and fellow teacher and hope she can find the space to recapitulate the joy of Kelly’s life and the light he shared with others. His essence and all of ours are secure in that old song that reminds us that the only thing that lasts is love.