An Irish Prayer
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
May you live as long as you want,
And never want as long as you live.
Today I will visit with my horse, work him a bit, feed him cookies. I will walk him up the hill where, just the two of us, will pause here and there and take a good look at the hills to the south, the Front Range of the Rockies to the west (Mount Evans still dusted with snow). I will talk to him–this horse I call Shy–and tell him things that I would probably not share with any person. We have that connection, my horse and I, that transcends any reasonable conclusions that horses are just critters, unable to understand the travails of the world, my own travails on this particular morning. I will tell him about Tom Bonner who was my friend of twenty-seven years, who now, today, will meet his death when his family decides it is time for the inevitable to occur. I will tell Shy that I will miss my friend. Oh, how I will miss my friend.
No, that first picture does not reveal Tom drinking a beer. A recovering alcoholic, Tom enjoyed a non-alcoholic beer now and then. We would give him his “pretend” beer, and he would savor it with the same indomitable passion he savored life itself. Indeed, when I cover the broad and bumpy ground I shared with Tom, I am always brought back to Kierkegaard. “Let others complain that the age is wicked; my complaint is that it is paltry; for it lacks passion. Men’s thoughts are thin and flimsy like lace, they are themselves pitiable like the lacemakers. The thoughts of their hearts are too paltry to be sinful. For a worm it might be regarded as a sin to harbor such thoughts, but not for a being made in the image of God. Their lusts are dull and sluggish, their passions sleepy. They do their duty, these shopkeeping souls… Out upon them! This is the reason my soul always turns back to the Old Testament and to Shakespeare. I feel that those who speak there are at least human beings: they hate, they love, they murder their enemies, and curse their descendants throughout all generations, they sin.”
No, Tom didn’t murder his enemies, or curse his descendants. But he was a human being. He loved, he hated, he lived with a particular passion that became so infectious, so strident, so ultimately charming, that few who knew him could not resist the urge to emulate him…or, at least, attempt to. Tom was, after all, one of a kind.
I believe Tom was born in 1945. He was a lifelong Denverite, born into an Irish family where surely Catholicism prevailed; where surely the hard-nosed, no-nonsense mien that he would later assume was honed on the hard edge of not only the precepts of the Church, but the imperative that nothing is given to men but the opportunity to rise above the paltry concerns of mankind, to live passionately, honestly, hard-as-nails commitedly in an attempt to celebrate the good, and to condemn the bad as a kind of inescapable raison d’etre that could not but otherwise enrich, elevate, celebrate the human spirit.
I could tell you so much about Tom. I believe, though, Tom would want me to share his little immediate family with you. Oh, his extended family is quite large, scattered around the country. But the family he returned to each day, all of whom he cherished as individuals with their own particular quirks, is, as I said, something Tom would want me to share. (I apologize for not knowing all of Tom’s children’s names.)
This is Kennedy. Tom’s beloved Lab, Kennedy. Suffice it to say, Tom was something of a Roosevelt Democrat: A fighter for the little the guy, the dispossessed, the needful. There is no mystery why he would name his precious Lab Kennedy. Now that I think about it, I could never keep up with all of Tom’s cats. There were just too many he cared for, so many that passed through his life…some still living and, I suspect, one or two of those I’ve shown are now gone.
Tom lived for his friends. No, that isn’t exactly right. Tom lived for others is such a way that even if he had just met you he had that unique ability to make you feel special, important. Yes, he had no use for the self-important, the egoists in the room. Indeed, the self-important, the egoists soon learned that Tom Bonner could and would rip you up one side and down the other, exposing your haughty facade for what it was…a worthless commodity in Tom’s universe. Tom lived to celebrate the little guy. Those were his people. Those were the ones he touched with his wisdom, his humor, his care, his urge, upon urge, upon urge to even the proverbial playing field where ALL had an equal chance to succeed.
Just a couple more photos.
Tomorrow I will again walk my horse up the hill, maybe ride a trail into those hills. I will talk softly to Shy–as old men are want to do with horses–and perhaps tell him more about my friend who I will surely meet up with again in time. I will hold Shy back a bit from wanting to trot–he is a young horse, with a youthful gait–and tell him, for now, we have all the time in the world, that there is no need to hurry. I will tell him that life is precious, and it requires only one step at a time–a lesson Tom taught me many, many years ago.