The Dash, 1951 – 2012

The Bear Lackett Chronicles

It’s not the beginning nor is it the ending rather it’s the dash in-between.

Oh very young

What will you leave us this time

You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

Oh very young

What will you leave us this time

  – by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)

On June 19th, I sat in St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Sea Girt, NJ and Bear’s 32 year old son Chris had just finished the first of two eulogies.  Lou Coluni, a neighborhood father and longtime friend of Bear’s moved to the lectern.

His eulogy began with a description of a gravestone saying that what was important was not the engraved dates that marked a stone but the dash in between.  Right then he had me.  I was one among the hundreds that paid respects at O’Brien’s funeral home the evening before and now with those in the church we all shared measured millimeters of time in Bear’s dash.

Lou Coluni, friend and neighbor of Steve

Frankly, it is only the Maker and maybe Bear who understands the entire dash.  Bear’s early life would have been chronicled and spoon-fed to him.  The rest he owned with the gathered others.

Admittedly, I was a bit jealous of Peaches and Schafno who kept a shared bond with Bear stronger over the years.  But as I sat and listened to Lou, I realized just how lucky I and the other brothers in attendance were to have enjoyed any such time with Bear.

The prior evening after the wake we all gathered at D’Jais in Belmar, NJ to pick at food and sip beer.  That’s when the reminiscing began, as we all knew it would, time spent getting our stories straight.  See, we had promised Joanne, Bear’s wife, that we’d stop by the house after the wake.

There were eight of us around D’Jais patio tables – Peaches, Oxbreath, Utays, Whitey, Bart, Hicks, Schafno and myself, as Bones.  Utays who lives in Chicago came down after a business meeting in NYC with Peaches who lives in Westchester. Bart came in from Albany.  The rest of us came up from Maryland hailing from around the Big “B” as in Baltimore, and Kent Island and Montgomery County.

Collectively, we echoed the core time period from 1969 to about 1977.  We were his contemporaries who lived the glory days with Bear.  I am sure that his sons and wife had more of him than we’d ever have but a bond was there.

There probably were about 50 to 70 brothers who passed through the halls at DSP during the time of Bear, counting the pledge years up through about 1973 the year of my graduation.  The years after 73 our times were built around group housing, apartments, the start of careers, women and events such as Maryland football/basketball games and brothers’ weddings.

It was after 1977 that those close-knit relationships got pulled in different directions. For Bear he liked to tighten that Gordian Knot bond, extend it where possible and perhaps never really be released from it.

And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy’s best jeans
Denim blue fading up to the sky
And though you want them to last forever
You know they never will

For me, I sat silently in St. Marks listening to Lou. Lou would be the last to speak publically about his relationship with Bear.  He was able to cover the family topics of kids growing up and the 35 years of marriage that some of us has experienced.  He spoke of his love for coaching baseball and how he loved his family and friends giving us but a small glimpse of the post Maryland dash.

I knew what was coming next.  I had just the year before buried my father.  There would be the announcement for a luncheon, the casket would be turned to face down the aisle, there would be no funeral procession to the cemetery since the family chose a private interment, and then there would be the walk.

The public end dash is near.

It’s always a tough walk on the family.  The Catholic services would end at the vestibule with a blessing by the priest.  All stand and wait.  Then out to the waiting hearse.

I lose it when bagpipes play.  Standing next to the hearse was a solitary bag-piper. I snapped a picture with my iPhone and as soon as the dirge stopped I headed for the car.

Peaches and Schafno were already standing on the corner of 3rd and Crescent, so I walked over to congratulate both on handling the readings then waited on Bart.

We chucked the written directions to Mom’s Restaurant in Neptune City in favor of following the impromptu funeral procession of two dozen cars of family, friends and brothers that would transverse north on Ocean Ave from Spring Lake to Neptune City.

The Usual Suspects, 2012

Bear would be given a final pass along the Jersey Shore.

Will you carry the words of love with you

Will you ride the great white bird into heaven

And though you want to last forever

You know you never will

You know you never will

And the goodbye makes the journey harder still

1951 – 2012

Photos and content 2012 © Sugarloaf Associates LLC

Lyrics of Oh, Very Young by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)