A Fitting Memorial
Our symposium is special……..I know this for a fact. I have so many good friends that I don’t get to see as much as I should and this weekend of kayaking is much more then getting on the water to develop skills, it really is much more then that. At this symposium, which I love dearly, Minister Bonnie Perry delivered a beautiful tribute to Bob Weitzel, a past participant in this symposium, who tragically passed away this summer while paddling on Lake Superior. It was a beautiful morning and equally beautiful tribute for Bob. The ultimate compliment that I can give Bonnie is that if she lived in Marquette, I would listen to her speak every Sunday. Thank you Bonnie for the eloquent tribute.
Here are Bonnie’s words:
Have you noticed that the world is crazy? Have you noticed that the world is amazing? Have you noticed that there are things, events that happen that inspire and enliven us? And that there are things that take place that terrify us? Bob Weitzal’s death while paddling on this great lake, this inland sea was, for me, an intersection of those two things: paddling solo on this liquid goddess and dying alone on this irascible sea. I heard news of a paddler’s death on Lake Superior and I was saddened. A couple of days later I did some reading about the person who had died and by the second paragraph of the article I had realized the man who had died had been a student of mine. A student of mine at a four day joint Paddle Canada/BCU class I had co-taught the summer before. For four days I’d hung out with him: morning, noon and night in what is the crucible of an intense class for both students and coaches alike. In those four days I came to know something of Bob’s passion, desire and determination. Suddenly, his death became personal. As many of you know, I’m an Episcopal priest (All Saints’ Chicago). I have some thoughts, beliefs and ultimately hopes on what happens to us when we die. Regardless of what I may believe happens to us after death–if I’m honest–death scares me. What I know is that one out of one of us dies. Death scares me. But what I know is that I do not want to live my life afraid of death. Because that’s not living that is dying day by day, bit by bit. When I paddle ( I suspect this was true for Bob and perhaps for many of us) –when I paddle I am more alive then any other place in my life. Every time our paddles dip into the water, as I breathe in and out and I know that I am alive, its then that I am aware of being closest to the transcendent and holy. The ancient celts talk about thin places–where it is possible to move through from the secular to the sacred, from the profane to the profound–well paddling is one of those “thin places” it is one such portal. I think Bob knew that and on good days I do too. My hope for us, in this crazy world, is that we too, all of us, will know it. Rest in Peace Bob.