Thursday, February 19, 2009

From Jonathan K., a Diggers Teammate

Farewell to a Man I Admire

For the past 11 years, it has been my proud honor to serve as the lead organizer for what has become a very special group of individuals, in a place where such communities are so vitally important to our emotional and spiritual well-being. As human beings, we feel most alive when we act collectively, together in a common endeavor – especially one in which we cannot succeed without the others we must depend on, and find a common way which must always be greater than the sum of its parts.

Today I look upon my ship and I see a picture it will take me a very long time to get used to: a vessel w/ a missing man. It is my hope that my friends can find solace, however, in the knowledge that Michael was so vitally important in building the kind of strong community that allows us to feel this way about him. We grieve, but we know without ever having to say it that every step we now take together honors our departed friend. Our games, our rituals, and our traditions now take on a far more special meaning for us.

Triumphant Comeback

In the winter 2007, I received a phone call from my star lefty, who’d been in all of our thoughts and prayers, asking me very simply to “save a spot for me, Jon.” Frankly, it was sort of a momentarily uplifting feeling, but one wrought w/ a sense that my friend was being, well, a bit overly optimistic. Boy was I wrong…

That misinterpretation, I came to learn, was the result of my failure to comprehend the character of my friend as well as I thought I did (managers always think they understand their players better than they actually do). Many have written about how true heroism can be seen in our ordinary lives, by people we are privileged to know, and in ways which go unrecognized most of the time. Michael, #42, the elegant lefty from the other side of the world, was such a person.

Beginning in late April, what our merry band of ballplayers witnessed, week after week, was truly amazing. Through this experience of watching our friend play (and playing behind him, as supporting characters), we were all being given one of those extremely rare gifts in life. All of us can fully understand and feel this now, and we remember well. The circle of that experience is now complete, one and one-half years later.

In a way pitchers are sort of like orchestral conductors – it’s an extremely nuanced art -- equal parts craft and skill, all governed by a kind of poise. Our elegant lefty always had a special grace about him, when he took the ball from me before each game.

It seems to me that in those 14 games or so that Spring and Summer of 2007, Michael gave all of us a life lesson about what human beings ultimately are capable of. It was an intimate gift shared by our small community, one none of us will ever be able to forget.

There is a vast, empty space in our world right now, as we grieve the loss of our friend, and our leader. In the Diggers’ world, Michael now belongs to the ages.

Jonathan K.

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