a library burned…

“When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground”

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I parked outside the bakery and decided to walk to the church. The sun was warm and even though I didn’t know exactly where I was going, I figured the village was small and surely it wouldn’t take me too long. Besides, the fresh air would do me good. Clear my head. I wanted the walk to give me time to wander through some memories.

I didn’t know Lavern for long, or even very well. He’d lived out his 93 years in a village where everyone seemed to know him by name, and it was only in this last year of his life that I had the privilege of meeting him.  I think I loved him the moment I met him – he was alive in a way that was contagious. His roots went deep, his feet so planted in community…he was a man who knew where he came from…and every time I saw him he seemed to be living every day fully, completely.

All I really knew about this tall, bright eyed man, were his stories and his smile. To me, he really was a walking, living, library. Nearly a centuries worth of tales were stored in his bones, and he let them flow out of him like water…this unstoppable river…He was a story collector in the truest sense. Binders full of paper clippings and a mind full of memories. He kept the history of a village alive.

I eventually found my way to the church, the walk a bit longer, the village a bit bigger, than I’d expected.  Most of the faces in the pews were unfamiliar to me, but the one in the casket was the one I knew so well, the one I came to see. It was just a shadow of that beloved story collector…the sparkle in his eyes now gone, the smile faded. It really is that spirit part of us that makes us come alive, isn’t it?  Our bodies, just a shell. Today, in that little church, Lavern was the subject of all the stories shared. And I saw how the ordinary life of an ordinary man could touch an entire community.

I will miss his light in that little place. And I regret all the conversations I wanted to, but never had, with him. But I can’t really think of a better sign of a life well lived, then a village church full of laughter and tears and stories, and a community who, even after 93 years, was nowhere close to feeling like they’d had enough.

Thank you, dear old story teller, for bringing such delight to this girl’s heart. A library burned to the ground with your passing, but the gift of your life is a story that won’t soon be forgotten.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
– Mary Oliver
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Words + Photos + Credit

Unless otherwise noted, all original photography and text are property of Raechelle Kennedy. If you see or read something here and feel inspired to share it somehow, please be considerate and give the artist (me!) credit, or even better, drop me a note and make sure I don’t mind.
Thank you!

Here + There

Secondhand Sainthood and the gift of losing it all – Topology Magazine, December 2015

Ten Things Made – Topology Magazine, December 2015

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