I did not sleep well Monday night. I'm sure many people had a similar experience. We had received Rue's phone call just 10 hours before I woke up early that Tuesday morning after. When Kelly told me that Lisa Heyman had passed earlier in the day, time stopped and held me captive until I fell asleep that night.
Going through my morning routine, I felt a quiet in my soul. I couldn't pinpoint what was making me feel that way since the range of emotions running through my body and mind expanded as far as the unschoolers in our lives. I mounted my trusty bike to make my 12-mile commute to work with clouds to my West and a clearing to the East where I subconsciously knew I'd find the clarity of the pending sunrise.
Less than a mile from my home, where the loves of my life slept peacefully, I engage a long, sweeping curve that wakes me completely, if that has yet to happen by this time in my morning rides. The curve is long and could have some blind spots if you aren't paying attention.
It is not uncommon for me to meet an on-coming vehicle or have one come upon me from the rear on my rides to work. I rarely feel any danger, but those coming up behind me sometimes make me grip my handlebars a little more tightly.
This cold (relative, of course, to those who live in Minnesota, Massachusetts, or Montana) Tuesday morning, I noticed the lights of a car leading me around that curve. I could tell the car was getting closer because the light from my bike dimmed as the car's lights overtook it. Normally, I can tell when a car is passing because the lights go out to my left before the car comes around.
This car stayed right where she was, using her headlights to lead me safely around the curve. I felt still, somehow surrounded by the lights of the car and protected by an invisible bubble that held me within its limits. As the curve straightened and the car passed, I looked closer to see the driver. I couldn't clearly see the person, but as the car moved back to the right lane in front of me, the driver beeped the horn, acknowledging my wave from behind. That's when I noticed that I had one hand off my handlebars while the other one sat relaxed atop them.
Two miles later and I come to the flat piece of road that offers the most incredible opening for sunrises on mornings like these. This morning was different since the sunrise struggled to showcase its brilliance while lodged between purple clouds which limited the view.
But in that crack of the sky where I saw the sun pushing up to the horizon, I witnessed oranges and reds and yellows somehow blending with the purples of the clouds to form the resemblance of a U2 photo I once saw entitled "The Unforgettable FIRE."
On the one short climb before I turn off to the two-mile road on the Air Force Base where I work, I hear the honking of geese before I see the birds making this distinguishable sound. I turn my head slightly left before noticing three geese heading toward me. In that moment, two of the geese appear smaller than the third one. As I ride and they turn to lead me up that slight incline, I see that the lead one is, indeed, a bit larger than the other two. They form a tight formation as they cross the road ahead of me and disappear in the early morning.
Riding onto base about 25 minutes after the initial blast of sunrise in the fiery sky, I notice the clouds have parted to give an unobstructed view of the soft pink canvas that complements the incredible blue sky.
The day had matured to create the clarity of that picture, and I was bathed and further calmed by the light. I saw Roxy in that calming light; I thought of her, then Fire, then Larry, and, finally, Lisa. I wept openly and hard as Lisa's wonderful smile and glasses and teeth leapt directly to the front of my thoughts. My tears flowed until I got into my office 15 minutes later.
If we're lucky, we remember where we were when we learn special people in our lives have passed. Hannah Jenner was with me as I rode across New Mexico two years ago with Kelly (thank you for calling us on that day, Ren); my grandmother was with me in a bed at her niece's home when she woke up to see Kelly again (after several days of quiet sleep) before passing over; and my grandfather was with me in a hospital bed in a coma until he opened his eyes to watch me walk out of the room for the last time.
Lisa Heyman was with me when I rode my bike this past Tuesday morning. She made sure I really looked at things that I could take for granted if I weren't watching or listening. She highlighted the wonderful uniqueness of her girls over the course of that sunrise and showed me the fragile flight of the family she now guides from another place.
She cleansed me and steeled me further to the importance of what unschooling means to so few, but with the potential to reach so many. She gently reminded me to never forget that morning and carved the permanence of her smile into my mind.
Ben, hoping their mom/wife's love envelopes Fire, Roxy, and Larry always and listening to the "Juno" soundtrack over and over again