Exactly one year ago I sat with a small group of friends as we celebrated the 40th year of our dear friend Ericlee. Swapping stories, several shared their unique memories with him. I volunteered a special memory from a shared family vacation in Mendocino where Ericlee and I woke early for a morning Crossfit exercise (WOD). After running down a row of railroad tie stairs to the beach, we beheld our natural gym. In Ericlee’s creative spirit, he directed each of us to find a set of 5 drift-wood logs, in ascending weight. Our workout consisted of carrying those water-weighted logs swiftly up those stairs then several feet away to a massive blowhole-like chasm where we’d heave them crashing down into the sea. The experience was exhilarating and challenging. I cherish that wonderful memory.
Today marks Ericlee’s 41st birthday and we only celebrate with him in spirit. Half a year ago, cancer quickly completed it’s course in Ericlee’s body. Now I hold these precious memories more tightly since no more can be made with him on this side of eternity.
Recently I returned to that familiar staircase descending to that Mendocino beach. I did not come to that beach to cry. But as I stepped over the carcasses of fallen trees, the tears came. And I welcomed them. Almost immediately, as if God was weeping with me, it started to rain. It was a divinely comforting experience. And I spent some time there, crying and remembering my friend and our adventures together.
I visited the blowhole before I said my goodbyes and returned to my car. There I grabbed my journal and penned these words:
“It is beyond bewilderment that we watched fireworks parade across the sky together just 2 months before his spirit was decisively divorced from his body. Sideswiped by circumstances, I stand again, this time with a cautious awareness that shipwrecks happen to the noblest of vessels. There is no immunity to mortality, as my childlike faith would have me hope. We all travel a downward staircase.”
I’m grateful for grief on that beach. I’m thankful for moments etched in memories, where Ericlee’s legacy lives on with me. Happy Birthday my friend. Today’s I’ll create and complete a WOD in your honor. No, it won’t be the same as our morning in Mendocino. But your strength inspires me in this season and in the next season we’re sure to do many WODs side by side again.
Maybe Jesus will join us.
“I’ll see you in a little while
It won’t be too long now
We’ll see it on the other side
The wait was only the blink of an eye
So I’m not gonna say goodbye
‘Cause I’ll see you in a little while”
-Steven Curtis Chapman
-By Forest Benedict, LMFT