Thank you God, for this good life, and forgive us if we do not love it enough.
As is often the case with shared rituals, the genesis of our Friday drinking group is in question. Britt suggests the roots were planted when he and I began to occasionally hang out at the La Fiesta bar last summer. Josh remembers some phone call I made to him, which I have a hard time remembering, while Jonathan can only recall an instance of being with another group of people only to realize he had to meet us at five. Sometime last summer I met up with Josh and Lindsay over at Doc's Riverfront for drinks on a Friday, and that's my strongest recollection of how it all started.
Regardless of it's beginnings, the form it would eventually take ended last night, as Jonathan's time here in Jerusalem on the Brazos has closed. He is now part of the diaspora, sharing his artistic genius (I do not use that word lightly) with others in much more appreciative places than this. Four became three, and the sense of finality was palpable.
Since he is leaving today, we met up one last time at La Fiesta, about as regular of a place we have frequented. There was a long stretch at Doc's, several memorable stints at The Elite, and a smattering of other places. The only (unspoken) requirement for the establishments we chose to grace with our presence was that they not be a hotspot of student activity. Oh, and also that they had good Happy Hour specials.
The girls-- Britt's girlfriend Holly, and Josh's wife Lindsay-- joined us, along with Roy. Yes, they brought a baby to a bar, and later I'll fill you in on why I thought that was the best place for him to be.
In the middle of the usual crude jokes and light Christian gossip, there were split-second-silences where I felt we were all personally expressing gratitude for what this throw-together group of guys has meant to each other during a year where we all were facing monumental changes in our lives. Britt, a fellow East Texan who I knew sporadically through acquaintances since we both moved to Waco in 2000, has just purchased his first house (from Jonathan), and in the next few weeks may possibly instigate more life altering factors into the equation. Josh, facing graduation from seminary and an uncertain future, has just become a father. Last year Jonathan left a very good and steady job with a local accounting firm to pursue his passion of art, mainly through graphic design. I had a difficult year at work, and we had all just lost a pastor, and me a best friend, through a tragic accident.
Throughout all this we made an unconscious decision that we were not going to be tossed about. We threw our anchor down into a sea of Shiner and decided we may as well keep each other company. We all told stories, as well as interesting bits of "information." But the greatest thing we ever did was laugh. We laugh a lot-- at stories of other people, at our own demons, and the many absurdities of life.
At one point last night Holly and Lindsay were in conversation, somewhat separated from the rest of us. Something was said that caused uproarious laughter and my first instinct was to look over to make sure we weren't disturbing Roy, sound asleep in Holly's arms. And then a wondrous truth hit me deep down in the depths of my soul-- Here's a brand new life, right in our presence, with the sweet sounds of church reverberating in and out of his tiny ears.
As Roy gets older, if his parents follow God's will for their lives and remain in Waco for some time, he'll hear the words "Love God, Embrace Beauty, Live Life to the Fullest," so much so that he may get tired of it, the same way we grew tired of the old men in our childhood churches beginning their prayers with "Most gracious Heavenly Father." Assuming he inherits the insatiable curiosity for explanations from his dad, he's likely to ask his parents the question that often rolls off our deconstructed tongues, which is, "What does that even mean?"
For the most part, he'll already have a good idea. But should his parents need help, all they will have to do is grab the picture of Roy at four weeks, being held by his dad's friend Jonathan in the middle of the La Fiesta bar, amongst emptied beer mugs and the air thick with joy. Josh will say "See that guy holding you? That's Jonathan Potter." He'll tell him that Potter is a guy who is creative, whose laughter can fill a room as quick as his kindness can lighten it. He'll describe a life that embraces beauty and lives life to the fullest, and who loves God by doing these first two.
We raised our glasses, knowing the next time around there would be once less. I feel my toast to my departing friend was inadequate, so I'll end with an ancient Irish blessing to one of the best, a guy who makes me proud to have such close friends with such extensive police records, and someone whose charismatic presence and laughter will be sorely missed-- Jonathan Potter...
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.