Turns out, I don't do so well with death. I've never lost anyone truly close to me, but the few memorial services I've been to were extremely difficult, and these for people I didn't know well but really liked.
Sunday, a very longtime friend died at home, of some sort of respiratory illness. He ran one of the best BMW motorcycle dealerships in the country, and was a true champion of adventure riding. Kari was one of my first advocates when I started riding BMWs, helped me through one bike purchase and rebuild after another, led numerous group rides and adventures I was on, and was a frequent presence in a very big part of my life for 10 years. He was daring and confident and very kidlike in his joy and glee for the sport.
One of the moments I remember best of Kari wasn't about riding, however. It was when his wife had breast cancer, and he was so worried about losing her. One day I was at his dealership buying yet another part (we old boxer owners did that on a very regular basis) and he talked to me about what was going on with his wife's illness -- and broke down in tears. I hugged and comforted as best I could -- we were standing and he was quite a bit taller -- but he was as sincere in his grief and fear as he always was in his cowboylike fervor for riding. Dave and I ran into Kari at a motorcycle show once when I was pregnant with Julian, and he happily gushed about his oldest daughter getting engaged. Though he was a very very well-known rider and advocate for adventure riding, he was first and foremost a family man. (Thankfully his wife survived.)
I saw Kari at his dealership for the last time a few months ago. He'd slowed down a little, mostly because of some persistent respiratory illness, but was still his usual warm and friendly and enthusiastic self. It seems that same illness finally claimed him yesterday. He was only 62.
I know few people who more embody life and energy than him, and it's incredible he survived the countless daring adventures and crazy risks he leaped into happily. He was a really really fast and brave rider, taking on challenges that most would never dare, joking about his advancing age.
It almost seems unfair that he died for a relatively useless and not-fun reason; I can just imagine him saying he'd much rather die doing while something he really loved than be taken by a stupid cough. Then again, he was with his beloved wife and daughters, and that to him probably would be the best place to be.
A huge part of me and my past life is gone with him too. Though I wasn't running into him weekly as I was for many years, he was instrumental in a very major part of my life.
I'm not sure I can handle this memorial.