Brain Visits A Friend On Memorial Day Weekend
I've never really been a fan of cemeteries. Then again, I'm not sure anyone would list them as a place they love to go. Your initial visit to one means that someone close to you has died. A somber ceremony followed by the lowering of the casket or urn into the ground. It's a memory that many people don't like to return to. I considered myself one of those people who didn't see themselves returning to a cemetery anytime soon. But this Memorial Day weekend provided me with that chance, and it proved to be moving and worthwhile.
My wife Holly lands on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to visiting loved ones who have passed. She firmly believes in the act of visiting someone's grave, placing flowers, and showing your respect. Holly has grandparents who are buried at Cedar Memorial in Cedar Rapids. On Sunday, we took some flowers out to them. As we placed the flowers at their graves, I couldn't help but notice how we were not alone. Many other people had come out to do the same. A wonderful breeze blew the hundreds of flags that adorned the fields. It was beautiful. It wasn't sad. It wasn't bitter. It was beautiful.
But before we left Cedar Memorial there was someone else that I had to visit. A friend I hadn't seen in years. Daren Taylor worked for KDAT radio for years. He was here when I started my KHAK career and we became close friends. Myself, Bob James, DT as we called him, and Josh Klingler, the station's news reporter, would take an annual summer baseball trip. We'd hit up Chicago and Milwaukee one summer, and then St. Louis and Kansas City the next. Those were some of the best times of my young life. One spring day, Daren was playing intermural basketball. DT loved playing sports. During the game he collapsed on the court. He later passed away due to a heart condition. He left behind a wife and young son. He was only 33 years old.
We found Daren's grave this weekend and I stopped to say hello. It was the first time I'd visited since his funeral 20 years ago this year. As I looked down at his name and reflected on the DT that I knew, I got choked up. I shed tears for my friend for the first time in 20 years. But unlike 20 years ago, these were not tears of sadness. They were part of a moment of reflection. A reflection on Daren's life, which he lived to the fullest. And it was also a reflection on my own life, which had changed so much in the 20 years since Daren had passed.
I walked back with Holly to our car with a fuller understanding of what visiting loved ones are all about. Do our loved ones care that we visit them after they're gone? I choose to believe that isn't why the cemetery is there in the first place. I believe that it is there for us. The living who are still here. I know I won't wait 20 years until I visit again.