Present Company and Absent Friends

“Ladies and gentlemen!  Light your cigars!”

An unusual way to begin a “toast”… but we should expect nothing less.  After all, it’s Clayton Burrows who we are about to honor.

Too bad he is not with us.  Too bad he can’t see the assembled faithful… the faces, the smiles, the broad laughs and suppressed tears.  Well… he would have been shy about it… rolling his eyes and walking off in a huff away from the attention.  We gather outside the Dry Dock Saloon (an alternate location from Ash creek for me)… a firm rain just finished.

It could have been snowing a blizzard, a total eclipse, a nuclear blast… nothing could have prevented Brad, Red, Lee or James (and many other folks whose names I don’t know, or have forgotten) from igniting a Macanudo to Clayton’s memory.

We return to the safety of the bar… to our whisky’s, beers and jell-o shots.  And stories.  And more stories.  That’s why we are there. For the stories that we share about Clayton.  One story following the next… each one capturing a “slice” of Clayton.  Each story producing a burst of laughter and a nod of acknowledgement.  “Oh, yeah!  That was pure Clayton!”

James moves around the bar and the high-tops… exchanging words and lifting a glass.

I am there as much for James as I am for Clayton.  That’s the way it is.  We mourn for the deceased.  We mourn more for the living.

Maybe Brad put it best to me… “For years James was Clayton’s guardian angel… now it’s Clayton’s turn to be the guardian angel for James.”

I like it.

I also like what my son Zack wrote to me about his memory of Clayton:

“Sorry to hear about Clayton.  I once gave you the Hunter Thompson line that best describes him: ‘One of God’s own prototypes.  A high powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production.  Too weird to live, and too rare to die.’

“I think a good legacy for him is that he reminded me of what’s great about being human.  So many types, so many stripes in this world, you never know who might touch in some way.  Every day is a new day that could be filled with those kind of moments.  I guess.  You just need to keep your eyes open.”

I’m keeping my eyes open.

Here’s to you Clayton.  Here’s to you James.  And here’s to present company and absent friends.

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