Paying It Forward, Mike

I came, to say good bye, and to say thanks
for your friendship, for your goodness, your decency
in how you lived, in how you treated others
in need of your advice, your passion,
those in need of justice—
a fair shake, you called it.

Words were spoken in the church about you,
in front of a thousand of your closest friends,
yet you had already left, taking your trumpet,
your laugh, and your good heart,
leaving us to wonder who we could now turn to
when we needed a friend, when we needed wisdom,
and a bit of justice.

I drove back home, along the river road you took,
that last morning, on your way to log with your family,
on the home place, where you were always with God,
the place that restored you, made you who you are.

I remembered your good advice, your courage in doing what was right
even though politics and money said different—
I remembered the logger back at the church,
stifling a tear, as he turned to leave, heading back to the woods,
remembering what you did for him, remembering
the man you were, remembering
you treated him decently, honorably.

We spoke then, on that river road, my tears—
I felt you close, and you knew then
what you meant to me, what our
friendship really was.

An hour later, I stop for ice cream at the drive through,
the man ahead of me, a working man, his truck
filled with his tools, at the end of a long, sweaty day;
He pays it forward, telling the clerk he’s buying my ice cream,
just because its a good thing to do.

You, then, take my ice cream money, and hand it to the clerk
paying it forward, to the family in the car behind me,
making a difference, letting me know
you are still around.
—Neal Lemery 10/2013