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.