Almost four years ago, in the town where I grew up, we mourned the loss of a man who everyone knew. A man who left his mark in the school system, the municipal court, and in the hearts of many people. Depending how you met him, you might have called him an activist, advocate, loudmouth, major pain, poet, politician, translator. What I remember best is that he shared his opinions without hesitation.
We met before I had Lesli, then when he met her he became her friend too. He gave her a nickname, listened to her, never interrupted. She always felt important around him, walked a little taller with a smile.
When he passed, Lesli and I decided to skip the public viewing and burial. I couldn’t imagine having Lesli say goodbye in public. The crowd, the emotion, the thought of having to turn our backs on the Big Guy – it was too much to face. We decided to honor his memory by blocking off time without distractions, as he had always done for us.
We cooked the dinner that had always been postponed, and sat at our kitchen table to laugh, cry and hug each other as we repeated his stories. It was a simple menu. Pre-made pizza crusts, pre-packaged cheese and fresh herbs. We talked, laughed, smiled and recounted how the Big Guy had taken us out for a long walk. A walk which I knew had caused him pain, but he hid it for the sake of a child. When our meal was done, we got up and tried to continue our day with smiles.
Every once in a while, when Lesli and I hear certain words, or when an adult speaks to a child as if the child’s opinion matters, we think of this activist, advocate, loudmouth, major pain, poet, politician, translator. We smile to each other and whisper his name so as not to disturb the memories. To many people he was many things, to us the Big Guy was a friend.