His Best Life Lay Ahead

Beach, Jon Olson

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Shirley Septic. Up early to see Sarah off. Actually, usual time b.c. Before Covid. Joe and Seoah. So solid. So with me. Sarah, too. The kids. Jon’s body. The viewing. Cremation. Robin. Family and its depths. Life at its most profound. How we become who we are. Sprinkled, too, with friends, of course. The Kep. Kate, always Kate.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Family


jon’s found objects

Oh. My. Saw Jon’s body with Ruth yesterday afternoon. After school. Gabe wouldn’t go in, “It’s too terrifying.” Yes. Indeed. Sarah stayed with him in the doorway. Ruth and I went into the room where Jon lay on a gurney, a blanket up to his chin, a hospital gown underneath.

He looked, I realized afterward, like those tintypes from the late 19th century, before embalming. More natural to me than any embalmed body I have ever seen. Dead, body still here, essence or soul or lifeforce gone elsewhere. But still Jon.

His curly hair covered the incision into his scalp where the coroner cut, I imagine looking for signs of a stroke or hemorrhage. His nostrils, no longer breathing, had settled up against the septum. His lips were purple and thin. Other than that and a slightly pale caste to his skin he looked asleep. As Sarah said to the kids, “He looked wise. Mature.” She was right. In repose.

Ruth cried out, “I want him back. I want him back. Right now!” Truth. And its refutation right there. She cut a lock of his hair with scissors the funeral director provided. A baggie.

She had some time alone, then I sat with her for a while. Not long. Maybe ten minutes. Back up to Shadow Mountain.


Evergreen Mortuary is a Western themed spot with a huge Bison head mounted over a fireplace, at the entrance a safe with its door akimbo, rocks painted gold inside it. Horse collars on the walls. Bison and old West photographs.

Jon was in a basement room.

His cremation is today. Ashes and death certificates will be available tomorrow.

Only the beginning of the long slog through his finances, his house and its hoarder-like interior. Well, exterior, too. Carpentry tools outside. The neatest aspect of all is his wonderful garden. He had mastered growing things in the arid, sun-scorched climate of mile high Denver.

Probate is a long process, but hopefully we can get through the appointment of a representative (Joe) and the locating of a realtor/property manager who will see to cleaning up the house and getting it on the market before the snow starts.

All of this work is in the interest of Ruth and Gabe. There will be a trust established for them into which the proceeds of the sale of the house and the Rav4 will go. Also whatever funds the go fund me account set up by Thomas Thorpe raises. Jon’s financial legacy.


He also leaves behind many of his original prints. Not sure I’ve written about this before but he invented (as far as I know) this printmaking process. He would pick up metal that had been crushed by cars and trucks. When he drove or rode his bike, he scanned the road for cans, pieces of metal, flattened hubcaps, whatever the road churned up.

He took them home and cleaned them. After that he would decide on what color ink he wanted to use, ink them up and run the metal through a flat-bed printing press. Often he would make several prints with different colors, angles, positions.

He picked up what had been discarded, abused by the weight of civilization, cherished it, and turned into art. I have several pieces of his work and they will all go with me to Hawai’i. It’s original and beautiful. In an abstract, minimalist way.

Ruth said he so much more art to make. That’s true. The tragedy here is that Jon seemed to have finally found a way of life that could sustain him. As Sarah said, the ocean liner of his self had begun a slow turn toward overall health and peace.

His disability checks began this month. His art had been hung in a juried show in May. He had come on new ways to use the discarded metal that was his primary medium.

Retirement from teaching would have healed the wound of the critical evaluations he’d had from a management by objectives school “reform” that crushed his spirit. Beginning to lift himself perhaps into his best life. Then, he died.


This entry was posted in Art and Culture, Family, Feelings, Fourth Phase, Friends, Jefferson County, Shadow Mountain. Bookmark the permalink.

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