A Heavenly Tailgate

It seems to be taking me forever to get anything done today. I feel like I am in a kind of jet lag state of mind after yesterday’s events for Kelly Jo’s memorial and not getting much sleep last night. The memorial service was held in the Superior High School Gym and was packed with about 500 people dressed in a wave of maroon and silver for the Montana Grizzles athletics and blue and white for the Superior Bobcats athletics. It felt like a giant tailgate for one of those supreme game days where everyone is out to just have fun. I don’t think I have ever experienced such a joyous event. As the Superior School fight song began to play, people rose to their feet in an electrified uproar of cowbells and noisemakers as if the team was just about to score the game-winning touchdown for the championship. This time there was no team, but the adoration of fans for a small woman of 4’ 11” who was being given the most spiritual send off of her life. I saw so many faces I have not seen in decades, many I no longer recognize. It has been 31 years since I left that home in the mountains.

Jesica, Kelly Jo’s daughter, with such strength and grace did an amazing tribute to her mother’s lively hood to paint a beautiful legacy of her mother’s heart and soul. I kept glancing over at Kelly Jo’s son, Tanner who had to most infectious smile on his face through out, and could see Kelly Jo’s light linger in his eyes. Afterwards we all moseyed on over to the 4-H building, about half a block away to continue the celebration. I have never seen so much food. It was the longest table of food I ever seen, extending 42 feet of the finest homemade dishes a community could offer. An extraordinary feast filled with so much laughter and joy.

I somehow ended up in my old stage management role by running music and video for the service. My heart raced into my throat as it all began. The way I used to feel when I was about to push the button at the old Stand Theater when I was a projectionist for this same community 3 decades earlier. Many things had not changed as I was once again mistaken for my brother Mark by most everyone there, though he was also in attendance. What a healing effect such an event can have on such a fractured community. As I wandered the halls of that old high school and found the class pictures of that era, my mind was flooded with a greater fondness than what I remember leaving it with. Mick was a few years ahead of me, Kelly’s ex-husband and alleged killer, and Kelly two years behind. Both families a beloved part of this small community, both sides feeling the bittersweet emotions of this unfortunate series of events; everyone trying to reunite without judgment. I felt a pride welling within me through out the day and I thankful to have this all a part of my heritage. For all the joy, laughter and, tears rose in the usually quite sleepy small town of Superior sending a thunderous celebration toward heaven.

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