How it went.

We’re back from the memorial, and my parents have gone home.

Every summer, my family would go out to the Black Hills to visit two sets of cousins, one set from each side of the family. They both had kids around our ages. The Knippling side was my Uncle Howard and Aunt Claire, with five kids. The Bouzek side was my Uncle Dan and Aunt Margaret.

Jonathan was one of the Bouzek kids. He was the same age (a little younger, eighteen months or so) as my younger brother Matt. (The cousin my age, Heather, and I were the Evil Older Sisters, and there’s another one, Jennifer, that’s quite a bit younger.) Most of my memories of him involve someone getting in trouble. More on that later.

As he grew up, he got lost. He started doing drugs, went to jail for a year for it, and decided to clean up. He went back to college, but it didn’t work out–trying to make too many other people happy, I guess. All in all, he finally put his life back together about two years ago. He was engaged to be married this fall. He had a job. He taught Sunday school.

From what anybody can tell, his doctor proscribed a powerful narcotic for back pain. Jon ended up having to get back in contact with one of his old suppliers for a resume situation, and got some heroin from him. He went back to his parents’ house with his dad and his fiancee, his dad left to drop of the fiancee, and when he got back, Jon was dead. His mother was at an Episcopalian convention at the time.

On Monday, they had him creamated and his ashes scattered over Pyramid Lake. He didn’t want a funeral, thought it was dumb to have people standing around and crying over someone that wasn’t there. He’d had a talk with his dad a while ago and had said, “When I go, I’m going to be sitting with Jesus in Heaven, drinking a beer. I think I’ll like him.”

We got together in Rapid City for the memorial. In the afternoon, my family went to Storybook Island. I can’t tell you how many times we’d been there as kids. (If you don’t know, it’s a free park, filled with slides and kids’ rides based on fairytales and Mother Goose rhymes. And this unholy statue of Barney. Wonderful, even though they don’t have the petting zoo any more. They still have the castle front entrance, and free plays that run through the summer season.)

We took Ray; it was the first time she’d been inside.

I could see Jon everywhere.

That evening, we had the gathering at Canyon Lake. I don’t know if Jon had ever seen it; it’s just been rebuilt. It’s gorgeous.

There’s an island in the middle of the lake with a gazebo on it and a bridge leading out. From the island is a long curl of rock and dirt packed with gravel. There are duck turds all over it, dead fish and fishing line, little crawly things in the cracks of the rocks. It’s just about the only place on the lake that isn’t immaculately cared for.

I could just see Jon and Matt out there, with sticks, poking at everything, coming back with mud up to their armpits.

Mom led the gathering, did a great job. “The thing about Jon was that he had this twinkle in his eye. Whenever he got an idea, whenever he was up to something, you’d see his eyes light up. The last time I saw him was when I picked him up from the airport to drop him off at college. I wasn’t sure I’d recognize him, because I hadn’t seen him for a while. But when I saw him, he got that look in his eyes, and I knew it was him. Of course, he was over six feet tall then.”

They played the “I will survive” song by the Grateful Dead (I don’t know the actual title, if that isn’t it); it was one of his favorite songs.

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