Burying Time Again

Our friend Chris Lucash died yesterday. His protracted battle with ALS is now over.

Chris and his family live next to us, here at the bend in the Moncure Rd. We had a rare Saturday lined up: nothing to do. I was thinking about laying block, or playing tennis, or working in the garden. Then I checked my phone.

He died at 4:00 a.m. in the arms of Alisa, with her sister and his best friend present.
The news hit me with an unpleasant blend of sadness, and relief, and wonder. Once again my brain took a back seat. They set the service for today at 4:00, which meant we had a grave to dig.

I fired up the tractor and headed for the graveyard where Z is buried, getting word on the lane that Chris and Alisa’s children were still sleeping. Word went out not to wake them, so I drove the long way around. I didn’t want my passing tractor to be the first thing they heard on the day they were to get the news that their Dad was dead.

IMG_1148Bob met me at the graveyard and went to fetch a carboy of fuel. Alisa slipped away from the house and showed me the gravesite they had picked out. One with enough space for her to be buried next to him when that time comes.

I started to dig. I’m not as proficient with the backhoe as Arlo, but when I asked him if he wanted to help he refused. Bob showed up with a measuring tape and staked off some targets for the hole.

I was about a third of the way finished when I couldn’t push on. I didn’t hit a root. Or a rock. I hit a wall. It was a solid wall of grief that not even a backhoe could budge. I killed the engine and walked away. My father-in-law, Ed finished the backhoe work, and the hand work was knocked out by Jason and John and Kabui. Apparently Kabui furnished the shovel crew with some Kenyan chants that made the work go easier.

I walked up toward the house, picking up sticks from the shoulder of the driveway, thinking perhaps I could mow—or do something else to help out—something non grave related.

Along the way my tears subsided and I regained my composure. For an instant I thought about how the whole neighborhood would be working together today, and about how satisfying that always is.

Just as I was feeling ready to go, I rounded the corner of Chris and Alisa’s house. There was Alisa, kneeling before her eight year old Eden, giving her the news. Eden had one hand cupped over each ear so as not to be able to hear. The peace I had found clearing sticks was shattered.

Over the past year Eden has been a frequent visitor to our house. She would build towns out of building blocks in the middle of our great room while I sat on the deck with Chris drinking beer.

Joe and Janice arrived. Luke and Hope and their kids pulled in. Carolyn and KJ arrived from Alamance County. In no time the entire property was abuzz. Garbage was collected and hauled away. A new fire circle was constructed. Grass was mowed and poison ivy was eradicated. Parking spots were cleared.

Sparkroot, as their place is known, was transformed. Brooksie and Leif arrived to plan the service. Tami fetched a mountain of food from Angelina’s. Camille organized tasks and ran communications.

Walkways were swept. Litter was picked up. Goats were milked. Porches were cleared. Benches and chairs were delivered. Janice hung a chuppah from some ancient oaks. Bob and Tucker and I fetched some saw horses from the Plant—sturdy metal saw horses to hold the coffin.

From time to time a decision would arise that the work crew could not answer. Often I would be the one to seek the answer. That meant walking through the house, entering Chris and Alisa’s bedroom, and interrupting the conversation. Chris’s body lay peacefully on the bed, and Alisa dispensed decisions for us all.

pallbearersBy nightfall the grounds were as ready as they could be. Chad had finished making the casket, and a group of pall bearers carried Chris from the house to the fire circle. Chris and Alisa’s children, Amie, Noah, and Eden each lit a fire in the greater fire circle that eventually became one for Chris’ final campfire.

Drums emerged. Words were spoken. It was a moving and touching ceremony.

Since today is Camille’s birthday, and the previously scheduled neighborhood celebration will be trumped by Chris’ burial, we went around the circle and enumerated Camille’s charms. She’s essential to keeping all of us on the right track.

Tami and I walked home in the dark, just as the rain started to fall. When my head hit my pillow the mixture of sadness, relief, and confusion was visited by a sense of satisfaction, knowing that we had all worked together, and pulled off another fabulous send off for one of our own…

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7 Responses to Burying Time Again

  1. Stacy Martin says:

    What a lovely community of hands and hearts. I cannot think of a more fitting way to be laid to rest then by the people who loved you on land that you loved.
    In today’s world we try and sanitize death and grief. I am so glad that you and Tammi and now Chris’s family has this community. RIP Chris

  2. i appreciate that you thought about the tractor noise:)
    also a change in your story: Luke was so enthralled with being part of the grave digging. he said it was really hard work but they laughed and enjoyed comradeship. Demetrius was a rock star out in the heat all morning cleaning up the yard and being the adults minion:)
    we may be newer and dont know these folks as much but we are so honored to be part of the community. This community is really a huge test for me; pretty awesome that ya’ll are involved.

  3. Kim Caraganis says:

    Dearest Lyle, Tami and your beautiful community. Thank you for sharing another poignant, heartfelt experience..we are listening and witnessing….Please feel our abundant blessings and love from along the Rocky River,this corner of the Chatham County woods.

  4. Pam Smith says:

    Thanks for sharing not only your words but your soul felt emotion. Thanks for showing us how to put one foot ahead of the other. Thanks for keeping it real.

  5. Joe Runkle says:

    Thanks for that. What a horrible disease!❤️🙏😇

  6. José R. Vélez says:

    I never had the pleasure of meeting Chris, but did met Alisa when she visited our endangered parrot facility in the Rio Abajo Forest of Puerto Rico. Reading this detailed account of the day put tears in my eyes. The loss is so hard to take and accept, but the goodwill of those who cared about the Lucash survivors eased the painful reality of our fragile human life. My heartfelt condolences to all who loved Chris.

  7. Sidney Sharp says:

    Chris had friends he probably didn’t even know about. People like me who admired his mission with the wolves. The end of that mission coinciding with his illness seems like a betrayal by Nature herself. This is a hard one.

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