The Longest Shadows Ever Cast

Saturday was pretty perfect. It was one of those summer days that still feels like summer, but reminds you that fall is on the way. It was warm, but not too sunny, and every once in a while a breeze would blow by and bring along the smells of cooler air and damp leaves. You wear jeans and a tee-shirt because you know that as the sun sets, the night just might get chilly. These are my favorite summer days.

We went to the lake for dinner, and we all sat outside on new patio furniture with drinks and books. My brother's girlfriend, Alisha and I tried to read, but everyone ended up talking. We sipped red wine from big glasses and settled in to brand-new cushions of matching burgundy, talking about food and music and work. My mom grilled and we sat outside to eat dinner--burgers and hot dogs and pasta salad; summer food.

After dinner we went next door for dessert. Our neighbors were having a birthday/bachelorette weekend and there were plenty of people to catch up with. Lemon drops were poured and tequila shots were taken. Chocolate cake made everyone happy and then feel sick, and slowly we went outside to sit around a fire pit in which my brother Sean and Rob had built a fire. The wood crackled and my face grew hot and if you squinted through the smoke and the dark, you could see where the yard ended and the lake began. Embers floated through the dark toward heaven and I wasn't too surprised when I started thinking about Zach.

He loved nature. I'll think of him every time I see a river or a camp fire for the rest of my life. He was an Eagle Scout through and through. If he were with us last night, I think he would have been out in the fire pit even before Sean and Rob, getting the fire ready. I think the last time I saw him before his funeral was about four months ago, but I can feel him now.

He's in the light of every campfire that brings a circle of friends together. He's in the breeze that cools every exhausted runner after a hard workout. He is the current that guides every kayak or canoe down a river. And he's in the heart of all of us who hated to say goodbye so early, who still miss him so dearly.

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the sweet uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
--Mary Elizabeth Frye