Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Susan's Funeral

When Dug and I showed up at Elden's door for a Saturday morning ride, I'm not quite sure what I expected. I certainly didn't expect Elden to answer the door with a howdy-ho cheerfulness.

"Hey! I'll open the garage. Which bike do you want to use, Bobby? The Superfly or the Fisher? Do you have a helmet?"

Dug had just picked me up at the airport, and we weren't even sure Elden would be up for a ride. So we loaded our bike stuff onto Dug's car and drove up to a parking lot at the top of the Alpine Loop, where we waited for the other guys to show up.

Whenever you're waiting at a parking lot for other riders, you derby. It isn't even a question. No one says "Go!" and no one even says, "Derby on!" You just ride in front of someone and stop, or you t-bone someone, and that's the start. There are only two rules in derby -- 1) hands on handlebars, 2) feet on pedals. As long as you follow those rules, you do whatever you can to knock other guys off their bikes.

Dug has the most experience. His elbowing is adequate and his balance is above average, but it's his head-butting that gives him his edge. Elden is -- and always will be -- slightly clumsier than any other rider, and that can work to his advantage. He's capable of taking anyone down with him.

Kenny and Larry finally showed up, and the four of us rode through the mountains, chatting comfortably and joking.

During the whole ride -- in fact, during the whole weekend -- I thought about Susan's death. I thought about how much she meant to Elden, and how much she meant to her children, and how much they would miss her.

I thought about how the cancer destroyed her body and tortured her for months. For years. I wondered how helpless and heartsick her family had to have felt as they watched her battle.

While all these thoughts were bouncing around in my head, we talked about singlespeeds and Leadville and audiobooks.

The funeral service on Monday morning was packed with people who showed up to mourn Susan's death and support the people she left behind. The service itself was beautiful. Elden somehow managed to give a tribute without breaking down, and the other speakers conveyed a good sense of what made Susan unique.

Susan didn't just try to be good. She was good. Genuinely good. She was warm-hearted and selfless and sincere.

I'll miss her.

Something else that was rattling inside my head during the trip was how Elden and Susan and their friends and family fought so hard and gave so much to help each other. Witnessing all that love and sacrifice made me feel hope and -- something totally unexpected at a funeral -- joy.