I buried a friend today, figuratively speaking. What really happened was that I went to the celebration of life for someone I worked with, saw daily, and respected tremendously. We didn’t drink together, though I knew she enjoyed wine, and of course, I now regret that sorely. She was far too young, a colleague, and as I listened to her children, her fiancee, our students, our colleagues and others speak of her today, I felt a sense of loss as profound as when I’ve buried people with whom I was far closer. She was, in brevity, a fine human being.
Her name was Michele. She was a brilliant person, and terrific at her job. Most of all, she was inspiring. I’ll be sparse on details here as it’s not my place for this blog to show up in searches about her in the future. Please just know that while people often speak well of the dead, in this instance, we couldn’t possibly speak well enough. It was so easy to appreciate her.
Yesterday I pulled into our driveway and got a startle; my Jeep was gone. My classic Wrangler, more specifically, was not where I had parked it. I rushed inside and asked Sonja if she knew what had happened, but of course, she did not. I called the police, called insurance and, as I have no social media outside of what I use solely in the wine trade, Sonja posted the loss to her various pages, hoping someone might see it or know something. Almost immediately, I started getting text messages.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Dude, that sucks!”
“Are you okay?”
I had to laugh a little bit. While I know that these people, these friends of mine, mean only the best, I am a bit embarrassed by this. My second vehicle was stolen. This isn’t even inconvenient to me, as I still have another car. The most I can say is that it is annoying. Try as I might, I don’t have the audacity to call this a problem. “I’ll let the people with real problems do the complaining,” I told one person. For while I may not have such audacity, here’s what I do have:
I have insurance on my stolen vehicle, because I make enough money to buy insurance.
I have another vehicle to drive to a job that I love.
I have a blog that countless wonderful people read.
I have a cellar full of wine to drink, and to review on that blog.
And most importantly, I have a son who makes me laugh, a daughter who melts my heart, a wife who still makes me do double-takes when she walks into a room after all these years: a family who loves me. In other words, I have everything I could ever ask for. My Jeep? Yes, it was a lot of fun driving around with the top down in the summer. I’ll miss it… but not that much. It was worth a lot of money, especially with only 62K miles on it. Hopefully, whoever stole it got themselves out of a jam with the money and is doing better now. How’s that for perspective?
Maybe it was Michele’s passing that helped me to see so clearly. Maybe I’ve always been able to do so. I’m too close to tell for sure. But what’s certain is this: I left Michele’s celebration of life, and so many colleagues that I truly, dearly love, and I went to the grocery store, bought some ingredients, and went home to snuggle with my family and cook dinner, and I could not have been happier or appreciated the opportunity more. And while I did those things, I opened one of the amazing bottles of wine in my cellar, a practice that can remind me on any given night that I am, in fact, the luckiest man in the entire world.
The bottle I opened tonight was one I have been eager to try: The 2014 “Chris’s Cuvee” from Kenefick Ranch. The hint of dark chocolate is the thing, from start to finish, that really sets this wine off for me. The nose takes time to open up, while the dark purple bordering-on-black heart fades to vibrant ruby hues around the edges. On the palate, beautiful blackberry and darkest plum, hazelnut, supported by ultra-fine tannins lending substantial structure, make it a force of a wine, a young one that I think will age terrifically. The finish lingers like that note of a piano that never truly seems to end, and may still be resonating by the time the next key is struck, by the time the next sip is taken. In addition, buying this wine puts money in the pockets not of Bronco or Constellation, but of the Kenefick Family, who still proudly own and operate this small Napa winery. How’s that for perspective? And best of all, I’d like to think Michele would have liked this wine. That’s what I told myself tonight as I drank it and thought of her.
If I get the Jeep back I’ll let you know, but I probably won’t, and while I will miss it it’s no huge loss. I still have all of those other things I listed above, and those are the things that make me happiest of all. I buried a friend today, and that reminds me that there’s nothing I have here on earth that I can take with me when I go. It’s best just to live life now, as best I can, the way Michele did. I wish I could have shared this bottle with her.