Two weeks before Christmas I moved, just two miles down the road, to the quiet side of town, an old, wooded neighborhood on a hill. You would remember this general area, because from here you could walk to the place I took you and Sean so long ago, the Asheville African Drumming weekend. You were both still living at home, and I was thrilled to finally find something that my teenagers would do with me. That’s where we met Onye Onyemaichi, a joyful man and gifted drummer: an old soul. Then you wound up going to college at SRJC in the town where he lives, and he has been an important part of your continued journey.
You would love this place. I have my own little forest here on the hill, and a fishpond by the front door, and the house and I are in love with each other. I know this is how you felt about the ranch and the land out there. I know now exactly how you felt, to be at peace, to be completely in harmony with a piece of land. I named it Harmony Hill, and I find every single inch of Harmony Hill a delightful curiosity. This knoll and I are continually healing each other. I have no other words for it. As I go about the yard work and the cleaning and planning and arranging and rearranging, it is in a prayerful state of gratitude, because something in me is healing as I perform those labors…and I seem to feel the instant gratitude of the property, the way you feel the gratitude of a dog who longs to be petted and you oblige.
Slowly, I am finding a place for my things. One of my favorite possessions is the photograph that Zach took of you posing with Stephanie and two guys out on the California golden hills. I have hung it on the old pine walls above the new altar for you. In the middle of the altar is your last photograph that you posted on Facebook, because I figure this must be the one you like the best. To the right and left of that, I placed the pictures of you reaching at the sky, one when you were just a year and a half old, at the beach for the first time. When you spied the seagulls soaring and squawking above, you stood barefoot in the sand, taking them in, and then instantly threw your little arms wide. You couldn't help yourself! It was the most glorious moment watching you, your little Corey spirit airlifting up and flying with them. On the left of the altar I have placed the photograph of you from just a few years ago, reaching your beautiful young woman arms skyward at sunset on your favorite hill at the ranch. That same hill where, at nightfall, you came tumbling down for no reason at all.
This morning, working around this altar to you, I am scrubbing down the stately pine-paneled walls. When I look up, the light from the sun passing through the mustard colored curtain makes a burst of light around you and above you, and I think: that must be what happened when you went off the hill that day. You soared off into a burst of light.
I want you to know that my goal for 2017 is that every single time I think of you I simply give you praise. That every time I think of you, I say, “I honor you, Corey. I honor you, I honor your life, I honor your life choices, and whatever and wherever you are now, I honor you.”
I will continue to wipe down these pine walls and scrub these oak floors and make roaring fires in the wood stove and figure out where is the best place to feed the birds and how to keep the water from freezing in the birdbath, and as I go about all of these actions I am healing myself and the place, somehow, wordlessly, is healing me. God knows I pray for my own healing, all the time, every single day I ask for healing. I want to be whole. I want to be wholesome. I want to live my life with so much joy that it pays the greatest honor to you. And so every time I look at your picture, even if I feel this sadness tugging deep inside, I will say: I love you, I honor you. I honor you Corey, I honor you and I praise you.