This past Tuesday the Magical Mystery Tour bus came for my friend. I didn’t think it would arrive so soon. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. If I had, I would have wished him bon voyage.
I just can’t accept that death is a full stop. Not for anybody. And certainly not for him. I can’t think of him as gone. I might as well think of the sun as gone.
I never had a dull encounter with him. Every encounter—no matter how short or long—was exuberant. His body radiated joy, even mirth. His soul never flickered. It’s hard to imagine him dead when I can’t even imagine him asleep. Ever.
Years ago, when he was downsizing for a move, he gifted me one of his watercolor paintings. A sagging school bus painted blue, parked beside a shabby house. Behind the bus three scruffy men warm their hands over a fire, flames flicking out of a rusted oil drum. Above the windshield in the destination panel of the bus are two faded words: JESUS SAVES.
Every time I look at this, he said, I think of you. I don’t know why. I sometimes see those three men back there as the three wise men. I don’t know if that house behind them is theirs. And I don’t know if that’s their bus. Or if it still runs.
He painted those men, the house, the fire, and the bus and still didn’t know. I don’t either.
The painting hung in my church office for 20 years. When I retired, I took it home. It’s here in this room beside me as I write.
I don’t know where the dead go or if they go at all. No one knows. But we can imagine. We can dream. We can sing. We can paint.
Joe was an artist. He knew there was more than he could paint. He knew there was more than he could say. And he knew there was more than he could know.
I don’t know if he got on that Magical Mystery Tour bus.
I imagine he did.
Each week I will post one of Paula’s photographs as the featured image on the home page. This week it’s Past and Present, Albuquerque, NM.
Randy, you captured it all—Joe, the painting, the Great Beyond, the magic of this thing we call life and death.
A wonderful piece…or, perhaps I should say, a hint of peace.
Well said. I think it’s all pretty much mysterious even before the bus arrives. And rest in peace, Joe.
This was Joe’s personal transportation vehicle. I used to ride with him while making his daily rounds. We’d stop for donuts and coffee at various country restaurants where Joe would acquire a dozen new close friends. While there, between bites of chocolate donut (with sprinkles), he’d convert most to a brand of religion he referred to as “Why Not?” Then, after a last slurp of coffee, we’d be off to places that existed only in Joe’s imagination. I last saw the Joe bus heading down a country road in a cloud of multi- colored dust— the same cloud he rode in on 87 years earlier.
Joe was a great example of — and testimony to — Pure Mischief.
You could say he was the Prime Minister of Pure Mischief. Joe Mayer, PM PM.
RIPM — Rest In Pure Mischief.
Poignant words from the heart. Tagore once said, “Death is not extinguishing the light, it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” Something to ponder—or imagine.
What an incredible summary of my dear friend; thank you for this. I never saw this painting … so glad you shared it.
Beautiful artwork and story.
Love this tribute, and the comments too. It makes me feel like I knew him….
Thank you! Beautiful memoir and love the painting! So sorry for your loss.
Joe was my teacher and friend. I never saw that painting before but I loved it and everything you said about Joe. He was a wonderful human being who taught me a lot about art and life. This was my first encounter with the Devil’s Gift. I loved it and I will be reading it from now on. Delightful and very, very interesting. Thank you.
[Many of us are now] looking at and treasuring what Joe shared with us and what we have as keepsakes and reminders–a special scene or landscape that captured a special moment in time and beauty–now framed and under the veneer of glass. But beneath the glass and within the frame is what lived in Joe’s mind and heart–for me the beauty of winter landscape against the Blue Ridge with a lone woman walking through the opening in a stone wall–or a pastoral setting bathed in yellows and golds of rolling hills and a little white church set in the folds of the ridges. Joe left us all with an appreciation of nature’s beauty and our place within it.
I’m sorry to hear of your friend’s passing. It’s strange, in many cases, that our friends and loved ones have already left us before they climb aboard the bus.
Your story reminds me of the scene at the bus stop from “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis. I am sure Joe got on. 🙂
Thank you Randy, this is certainly a wonderful remembrance of my wonderful husband, Joe Mayer. He was truly a remarkable man and a loving husband. I would tell my friends I try to be as kind as Joe. But I just cannot measure up. I will keep trying. He was the love of my life and I am glad I helped him board that bus. He was not particularly religious but very spiritual. He considered himself a transcendentalist. I just considered him the best human I knew.
I am fortunate to own several of Joe’s paintings. One is of a yellow school bus next to an old house on Shepherdstown Pike. He loved to paint buses.