You have to muster up something to look over into the coffin where a dear old friend’s body lies. Yesterday after I shared a few highlights about my friend Adam Allen and I already cried in front of hundred or so people I’ve never met, then, then I could look. It was only the second time in my life I’ve seen a dead body (the first time was my grand-dad’s). The same feeling I remember after seeing my grand-dad filled me. It was this indescribable and indisputable knowledge that Adam was not there. The best way to convey the feeling is that it sharply contrasts the feeling of seeing a sleeping friend.
Right after the funeral I was busy catching up with friends I haven’t seen in 20 years, getting lunch and driving 3 hours back home. Finally though, just before bed, I started to process the day, the people, the service and lifeless wax sculpture I am told was Adam’s body. Why did that not feel like Adam? I wondered. Well, let’s think about this. None of what makes Adam, Adam, was in the building yesterday. All of us who shared memories, we brought more of a semblance of Adam to the room then did his body in the casket. And those snapshots, those were the things that made my eyes well up. Someone mentioned his sneezes that came like cracks of thunder and would make your skeleton jump out of your skin. Another mentioned his bone crushing hugs, or the way his shoulders bounced up and down when laughed so hard he couldn’t breath (as he often did).
You see, the more you knew Adam, the more you will understand that he wasn’t that room yesterday. A lot of times people muster up good things to say at a funeral: a very general “He was a loving father, brother, son, friend” or whatever. But Adam was someone that was easy to come up with good genuine memories and great things to share. I was thinking just a week or two ago, after seeing a funny Facebook post he made, how much I missed him and how he was truly one of the wisest, deep thinking, listening and loving friends I have ever had.
I want you know all of these things about Adam, because I believe God engineered that unique personality of his for a reason and the more people he influences (even posthumously) the better. I first met this chubby little friend because alphabetically his last name seated him next to me in 5th grade Home Room.
He was in several classes with me and it seems like it was in Mrs. Firestone’s music class where he shared with me his invention of an edible food glue. Right away I knew he wanted to be a chef someday. He loved my cartoon character, a little lizard named Duke and had me draw him all the time.
Im 8th grade Adam dressed as a chef (or maybe he was the Pillsbury Doughboy, I can’t remember)
Adam moved back to Utah after 8th grade but came back to Craig in high school. I shared at the funeral that I’m not sure how he and I became such great friends, because almost every one of his friends from high school and on were heavy into games like Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering and such and I am not into those at all. He as also part of the LDS Church which I was not. Maybe it was because I was a little bit into Sci-Fi and he enjoyed that too. I can’t remember what grade it was in when we watched the movie version of Fahrenheit 451 and after seeing the main character’s unique, forearm-grasping handshake, he and I greeted each as such for years afterward.
Our friendship became strongest when he joined my church youth group at Calvary Baptist Church. He grew up a Mormon and died one, but there was a section of his life when he was questioning all he believed (another personality trait of those with strong minds). He was quickly assimilated into our group of friends because he was such a caring and jolly person.
There were many adventures in the Calvary Baptist youth group and times when Adam, Nick Augustine and I hung out together. A couple of situations were so powerful, though, that they still come to mind often. One, which in way helped me discover part of my identity, was when Adam and I (and sometimes a few other friends) would meet up for coffee at the Craig Village Inn late at night. Our conversation would go into deep places as I hadn’t experienced with any one before. I realized then how much I like to think deeply about things (usually theological stuff). The other situation was right after Adam had to break up with his girlfriend Sara.
Adam needed to get it off his chest and so he pulled me aside in one of our church’s empty classrooms. He told me they had to break up and then, the tears started to flow. I think he was falling in love with her. I had never seen him cry. I put out my arms and he crashed his head into my shoulder with shudders. Not many guy friends (especially at that age) are that vulnerable and it told me that Adam trusted me probably more than anyone at that time. That vulnerability also showed when he told friends he sincerely loved them.
Adam’s desire to be a chef earned him the nickname Chef Curly and led him to pursue Culinary Arts in college at Mesa State in Grand Junction. I had already been there a a while getting my degree in Graphic Design and I was involved in a campus ministry called Master Plan Ministries. It was another large group of close friends that found it easy to accept Adam in.
I can’t remember where he went after Mesa State, but at some point he earned another degree at the Community College in Craig.
Years and distance separate all of these good friends like leaves in a river. You can’t keep up with every one you’ve ever known and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. You have those who are in your life now to turn your attention to. Sometime you’re lucky enough to both be in Craig again at the same time and this happened one last time for us about 4 or 5 years ago over Christmas. We met up for coffee at the Starbucks in Craig’s Safeway. We were both in our mid 30’s and still unmarried and we were commiserating about it. He listened to me go on and on about how I had chances with all of these hot girls and how I was disappointed over and over again with their character. He said “Josh, we have to learn to love those who are good for us.” He was dropping wise words on me all the time like this. But that one really stuck with me, especially over the next few years when I was in for more of the same. His words echoed in my mind until finally I began to change the priorities in my mate-search criteria. I truly believe it was his words that helped me find my wife. Thanks, old friend.
Unfortunately in the years since I last saw him, our friendship was nothing more than “Liking” a silly post he made on Facebook here and there. To his credit, he never missed a Christmas, Easter, Halloween or Thanksgiving to shoot a text wishing a happy one.
In the last couple of years Facebook has been full of political and ideological vitriol. I have kept following several friends with sharply oppositional views because 1) They’re old friends and 2) I believe its healthy. Through this I have a clear window into a world of people who do not believe in God and therefore buck at any morality that comes from specifically a Christian world view. Sometimes it seems this Godless world has completely lost its mind. Several weeks ago I was thinking to myself, you know who would have a level head about these things? Adam Allen. And I thought it would be really fun to meet up at a Village Inn and hear his thought on this issue. When you miss a friend, it really stings to know you won’t, you can’t see them again. I saw a post from a co-worker at Pizza Hut saying that he had passed away and my first reaction was Wait what? Nooooooooooo!
I know this was long….and more of time line than a picture of who he was. I want to give a picture, but its made up in so many millions of nuances, how do I? Like how he always said “Cool beans”, or he called me and my brother “Squashy Mess” (our names are Josh & Wes). Those nuances, those were the things missing from the room yesterday.
As I thought about all this last night, that was when I think God showed me the importance of our souls, the deep down part that is really us, our spirit. It’s why the Naturalist, the Atheist, the Evolutionary argument doesn’t work for me. If Adam was simply one of billions of highly evolved organisms, a meat computer who’s hard drive has finally failed…then where did Adam go? Sure, the body he occupied for 37 years was laying there right before my eyes, simply not functioning anymore. But where’s Chef Curly saying “Cool Beans” and talking about a food glue he invented?