Tuesday, July 22, 2008


This past weekend, I was in Beaver Creek (and environs), Colorado. My sister and my mom also went, and we were all there to attend the memorial service for my Uncle Tom. My cousin Kris was the organizer of this impromptu family reunion weekend. He died back in October (click here for that blog entry).
The memorial service was last Sunday, at a place called Piney Lake Ranch, 11 miles up a dirt road from Vail. It's at about 9300 ft. Kris and Tom used to camp there a lot when Kris would come visit him in the summers (she lived the rest of the year with her mother and stepfather). The main part of the "service" was planting a spruce near where Piney Lake flowed back into a creek. Then Kris, her husband, and a few of Tom's friends went further upcountry to deposit his ashes. I know where, but I think they said it was federal land, and such memorializations are illegal for some reason, so I'm not telling.
Tom wasn't the most religious of guys. He wasn't really sure how to talk to me after I became a minister, I think. We didn't talk enough to really even know that we couldn't talk. But it was clear that the usual words used in a United Methodist funeral would be wildly inappropriate. It was Thomas Merton, however, that wonderful monk of the 60's who was mystic in all the good ways that transcend all manner of religious cultural identification, who gave me the hook to be able to think and speak last Sunday. It was his belief, in New Seeds of Contemplation, chapter 8, that "If you go into the desert (monk-speak for anywhere of solitude) merely to get away from people you dislike, you will find neither peace nor solitude; you will only isolate yourself with a tribe of devils."
Instead, one goes into solitude in order to remind oneself of all that is good in the world. I think Uncle tom got this. It was views like the first three photos up top that he shared with his most trusted friends and with Kris his child. Later, he probably shared them with Kris' two daughters, too. Everything that was good about this world had been to this spot on the earth.
I am pretty sure that Uncle Tom wasn't a Christian in any institutional sense, but I don't think he was an atheist. He would probably understand what John writes in the 14th chapter of his gospel: "In my father's house there are many dwelling places. . ." I think I've been to the place that Uncle Tom's dwelling place resembles, and it is in the photos above. Oh, and the ribs and chicken are pretty good, too!

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