During my freshman year of high school, we read Dandelion Wine. I don’t remember the book very well, but I remember in the beginning, Douglas, the 12-yr old protagonist, has this revelation that he is alive. It’s this liberating, illuminating experience, and it almost takes him off-guard. He doesn’t really understand this feeling of life. In the middle/end of the book, Douglas discovers the temporary nature of objects when things start breaking down, and he also disovers the frailty of existence when people go away and/or die. He thus experiences the reality of death. So this book has always reminded me of this duality between recognizing and feeling alive with experiencing and awknowledging death.
This Christmas was sort of like that for me. I mean, the holiday itself is dual in nature: a celebration of Christ’s birth and of life and light into the world (obviously the religious aspect of the holiday) with the awknowlegement that Christ’s birth is so important because of the death he would eventually die.
This Christmas season, I was having this Dougles-esque experience of I’m alive! For the first time in a while, I found myself excited by the potential of the future. Things like the sunsets I saw every night and the eclipse I couldn’t really see because of the clouds and having coffee with friends I haven’t seen in a while were entirely thrilling to me. I was looking forward to reading and writing and playing tennis and doing yoga and pilates and meditating and spending time with family and getting myself into a better place than I was before.
Two days before Christmas, one of the nicest, most awesome people in Roswell passed away. He was known nationwide by the tourists who, finding the whole “alien” thing disappointing, stopped into the local winery and met the charming personality who was Dale. The reviews on Tripadvisor.com rave not about any of the sites in Roswell (totally understandable), but about Dale. He was one of the warmest, friendliest people I knew and I looked forward to getting a glass of wine just in order to say hi to him. Within our community, he was widely known and loved and he will be greatly missed.
The past couple days I’ve faced moments that make me think more deeply about what it means to live and die, and how a single life can impact so many others’ that it didn’t even realize were connected to it. What brings life into this world? Why do we keep living? What do we remember after life has ended? I think the answer to them all, in some way or another, always comes back to love.
I hope you all had a Merry Christmas.
May you rest in peace, Dale.
2 thoughts on “This Christmas”
Dale could keep a secret. He could listen to a person, to particularly private information and keep that to himself. When it came to the way the world EXPECTS people to behave, Dale knew that society is basically a bitch. He let people be themselves. If they liked sweet red wine, even if it had all the nuance of grape juice, he remembered their tastes and he responded to them. If they were big babies who needed someone to listen to them cry, he listened. He gave freely of his ears, and he gave shockingly little of his own secret self. He was an easy person to love, and he was a hard person to know. We are all lucky Dale did not play poker. He could read people and he had no “tell.” It does not seem real to me that he is gone. I cannot comprehend such a thing. My only consolation is my sincere belief that he has come round to a greater peace and joy than could ever be his here on earth. We are the ones suffering because we are the ones who must soldier on without his bon ami.
That is all so true. My post did not do Dale justice, but I think part of the reason I didn’t elaborate was because I didn’t want to come off sounding like I knew him better than I did. But I realized today when it was mentioned at the service, one his many great attributes was that you only needed to meet him once and after that you were a friend. Dale became one of my most favorite people in Roswell, a source of light and life whose very presence made mine fuller. And I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone who actually qualifies as a ‘friend’ by real-world standards, and not by winery standards, to have lost someone like Dale.
You know, I went to the winery only a couple days after I got into town, on the Saturday before Christmas…but he wasn’t working. I was bummed to not see him, but I figured there’d always be next time.
I did think of something that made me smile today- I found a positive side to my Chip drama. If it had not been for that, I probably wouldn’t have met Dale, or at least not have seen him so regularly, so I’ve been shown at least one very good reason to be thankful for the hard times. Dale was, in so many ways, a blessing to those who knew him, and I’m glad I got to be incuded in that list.