Sunday, September 26, 2010

A String of Beads


you will recognize moments in your life when one memory of an event neatly lies upon another in the future. I know what you are thinking... shouldn't that say one moment in the present neatly lies upon a moment in the past? No. The reason is that even as an event is taking place, something inside of you snaps to attention and recognizes something about what is occurring here is significant. These are the moments in your life where the string of beads you are subconsciously collecting make a sudden turn and overlap. Tonight Peter Knowles is on my mind. Specifically, I am thinking about a conversation we had some seven years ago when he was home in Naples having just arrived back from Africa. He was smiling, brilliantly beaming, that red hankerchief knotted at his throat. His white hair was longer than usual and his already dark tanned skin was even darker from the African sun. Always animated, that day he was levitating. As usual, I was struggling to hear his words beyond his beautiful accent. With Peter, I had to FOCUS. He was talking about one of our favorite topics. Sliding back into Naples after having returned from the Third World. It's one hell of a bumpy slide. He was talking about his truck in Africa. How he had to run along side it making various manuevers to get it started. He is actively making these efforts to start the truck here on my store's sales floor minus the truck, and we are gathering some stares from my other clients. I am giggling with this man I love so dearly. Then, all of a sudden, he looks at me hard and says, "Kristin, I despise my car here in Naples. I cannot stand to look at it. What it means. Kristin, I miss my battered truck. I miss Africa." Now, I happen to know he drives a black Mercedes. I understand him immediately. We just stand there looking at one another until I ask the obvious question of when his next flight back home to Africa is. It is six months in the future. I feel that old familiar silent prayer being offered up to God... "Please, just let him live that long. To see his beloved Africa again." It is like he knows my heart and he smiles. With that, he hugs me, and is off. I have strung another bead on my figuritive necklace. That day, I smile at the bumper sticker on my new Land Rover that says in black and white letters, "You are not what you own." And I know it to be true.
Fast forward seven years later to just a few days ago. My beloved friend Peter has passed away. At this moment he is not even in my mind's radar. Jason and I are sitting in a dealership with two squirming children trying our best to go over a final document of financing. It is somewhere in this moment I realize that I do not really care about this car... I can take it or leave it. I think this is because I now drive a minivan that we paid less for in total than even one payment on the Rover. I like this van, and in this moment, I am shocked by this reality. I do not worry about this van, the spilled drinks, the dirt tracked both in and out by the children. Something odd happens as Jason looks at me, and we both look at our cheerful new salesperson friend and kindly thank him for his time as we GET UP AND WALK OUT saying we'll think about it. We drive off in our van with both kids probably wondering what the heck THAT was all about. The beads have now overlapped on my necklace.
That necklace figuritively rests around the mirror of our new ten year old four wheel drive that sits out front in our driveway. I'd give anything to know where Peter's truck is bouncing along in Africa right about now.

Peter Knowles was a man who had a soul brighter than anyone I have ever met. His work with small communities at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro was beautiful- teaching families to farm and providing safe water sources. One of the bad things about moving away from an area is that you never know when that last hug will be your last. Such was the case with Peter. I hugged him in the spring of 2007 and said a little prayer for his safe return to Kili, and he was gone six months later. My heart is heavy with the news and he is sorely missed. I will always remember his excitement at the Naples Drum Circle- I think it made his heart feel closer to Africa when he was home in Naples

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