Jacob Peterson stared at the taupe vase with its intricate pattern of lines that held a bouquet of purple and white lilacs. He loved that vase. He had made it with his own two hands. The pattern on it reminded him that life had dozens of lines and intersections, places to connect and disconnect. The flowers, with the tiny blossoms and sweet scent, helped him to remember that no matter how difficult life could be, there was always beauty to be found in nature that could salve the soul.
Now was the time that his heart needed salving, having just learned from a phone call that his beloved best friend from childhood, Kit, had died in a motorcycle accident. Ah, how cruel life could be. He and Kit had a whitewater rafting trip planned in just a few weeks to celebrate their twenty years of friendship. There would be no fun trip now, only Jacob traveling across the country to his hometown for Kit’s funeral. He sat staring at the vase, wondering about those intersections and let the tears flow down his cheeks.
Five days later Jacob sat surrounded by family and friends in the familiar old Episcopal church where he and Kit had met. Everyone was there to commemorate Peter John Kitman, the best and most adventurous person most of them had ever known.
Jacob listened as old Father Morgan spoke loving words of the boy he had watched grow up, someone the old priest certainly had not expected to bury. “I am looking over the congregation here,” Father Morgan said, spreading both arms to include everyone, “and I see open and loving faces. Faces of people that only our Kit would have had in his life.”
He paused, then laughed. “Oh, how well I remember the antics of a few of you out there after being trained as altar boys along with Kit. What a lively bunch you all were, sneaking a sip of the altar wine and rearranging the kneelers just to have a little fun.
“Now Kip, of course, went on to become a gifted botanist, someone who felt driven to learn more about the world around us. This came as no surprise to all of us who knew him. He was always stopping to examine the petals of an unusual flower or researching to determine the exact type of moss growing on a wall. He had a power of observation that made him special.
“Kit was a person who could ‘see’ in the best possible way. He lived in the present moment and focused his attention on the particulars in the world around him. That is one of the reasons we are all here. That same focus extended to his family and friends, and made him one of those people who everyone could count on to be right there with you in your time of need or if you just wanted to have fun.”
Jacob felt the sting of tears. That was so true. Yes, Kit was always right there no matter what the circumstance.
Father Morgan went on to describe Kit’s many accomplishments, then added that God had him now in his loving arms and, because of that, everyone could feel at least a measure of comfort. He smiled at the congregation and said, “I am hopeful that Kit’s untimely death helps all of us to remember not to waste another moment pondering ‘What if?’ but rather to listen to our hearts and strike out in the direction God leads us.” His eyes lingered on Jacob.
Jacob shifted in his seat. He knew that Father Morgan was giving him a little prod from the pulpit. The last time they had spoken – just a year back, over the phone – Jacob had admitted to the old priest that he was lost. He had enjoyed college and the first couple of years of his corporate job, but then it had all gone cold as he began to long to do something more meaningful. He had remained in his job, but he wasn’t inspired. He was still searching and now Kit was gone, the one person on whom Jacob relied to provide support and guidance. But now he heard the old priest’s words from a new perspective. It was time for a real change.
After the service, Jacob hugged Father Morgan at the back of the church. “Thank you for that inspiring eulogy. I believe I know where I’ll be going now.”
The old priest’s blue eyes lighted up. “And where might that be, Jacob?”
“I’m going to open a ceramics studio, Father. It’s been my passion my whole life, but I’ve not pursued it because everyone has always told me I can’t make money being an artist. But I’ve decided as of today to take my savings from my corporate job and use it to head in a direction that will make me happy. I don’t need much money to live on and I want to live instead of just exist.”
Father Morgan opened his arms and pulled him close. “There you go, dear boy, that’s the ticket. Live your passion! Money is highly overrated, let me tell you, son. I know a lot about that.”
As Jacob headed to the reception, he felt happy in a way that was new and different and gave him a reason to smile on this otherwise sad day. “Thank you, my friend,” he said under his breath, then opened the door to the parish hall and walked inside.