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Finally. There was snow this morning when I woke up.

I learned that my friend, Tom, died on Monday. It was coming, he had cancer. He worked hard for a long time to stay alive longer. I hate that language around cancer: she fought a valiant fight. In the end we all die, it’s just that we go at different paces, for different reasons and at different stages of life. All of life is, in one way or another, a struggle to stay alive, isn’t it?

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The interesting thing is is that I’m staying at the home of some friends for a while and on the shelf near where I sit in the kitchen is one of those funny gizmo-y spaceship salt shaker things that Tom used to make in his shop in Charlotte, when he was making stuff down the hall from where I was working on the newspaper. Only I’m a hundred miles from Charlotte and there is no sensible reason why this thing would be sitting here staring me in the face this morning.

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Except of course as a reminder that now Tom is everywhere and we can visit here, all these miles away from where we used to work together, have tea, share stories. I didn’t expect that Tom would be dead so early in the game, but that’s how it goes, doesn’t it?

I decided it would be a good morning to revisit one of my childhood favorites for breakfast: Cream of Wheat with raisins, milk and maple syrup. I should be going skiing after a breakfast like this, but not today. Nate heads to Idaho (for a few days of skiing) today, before he returns to his life in Montana. I will take him to the airport soon.

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We had a great time together, capped off by a visit to New York City. Nate hadn’t been there in many years, so it was great fun to go with him. He’s still got that terrific sense of curiosity and awe for this world that makes for excellent traveling companionship.

We went to two of the Look up! places in New York, as I call them: Grand Central Station and the Guggenheim. We stood for quite a while and just watched people coming into the museum, take a few steps and then look up. Certainly at the Guggenheim the line between art and humanity becomes blurred: the people are the art is the people.

I think that’s how it was with Tom’s life, too. He was one of those people who really elevated the story of life, by choosing to shine his light in every direction. He was one of the good ones who vibrate on a higher plane. And, equally as important, he took Nate and me sledding the two miles down Mt. Philo once with his super fast Hammerhead sleds. He kept an extra one in the car … just in case. He was that kind of guy.

The night before the museum visit we were treated to a terrific concert at the Bowery Ballroom: The Lone Bellow. Before the show Nate and I got to go into the secret upstairs room where the band members gnaw on their nervousness before a show. There we all circled up and held hands and I gave a blessing. It was a really great moment for me and a reminder that church happens in so many ways and in so many places in our lives; Sunday morning is just one of them. “There are lots of pilgrims out there who have come tonight to hear you preach,” I told the band. “fill their hearts and this space, tonight, with your warmth and song and sweetness.” Amen.