Today waiting for a stop light, I looked for a number in my cellular phone. There I noticed a number for a friend who passed away a few months back. I don’t know any reason to keep it anymore, so I deleted it. The thought crossed my mind of another friend who had passed away and found his number. I deleted it as well. Again I find myself reflecting with the passing of another life. There seems to have been a number of them lately. Terry McCombs, David Donaldson, Justin Rose, and now Evan Elliott.
I learned of Evan’s death on Halloween. Apparently he had a massive heart attack and died at home on the 24th. There was a pang of guilt for having not written him back two weeks before when I had felt the prompting to do so. I wrote some others I thought would be easier to write. I guess I am absolved of the responsibility now. His graveside service was just a few hours ago.
Once again, I reflect on the influence of another in my life with their passing. The flood of memories come back. This is a relationship I don’t know I will fully understand while in this life.
On my left knee, up a few inches and outwards is a scar I carry about an inch in length. I still remember climbing over the industrial vacuum equipment and slicing it on the corner of duct sheet sitting there. It was a deep cut and it bled nicely. I didn’t have stitches but whenever I think of scars it is one of the two which first come to mind on my body. I must have been only about 6.
I remember the morning I awoke with mom sitting on the bed. It was downstairs at the old house along the freeway. I was about 8. Mom came to tell me that Grandma had found out about some things with Evan and that they would be getting a divorce. I had no clue what that meant. But he disappeared. That is what divorce meant to me for several years. The tone in which she told me was one of disappointment in Evan. There were no harsh words of his character or personality which Mom would later spew about him. I remember not understanding but feeling it would be okay because my Mother told me so.
I remember fishing many times with Evan as a young boy. I don’t ever remember catching anything. But it was fun to sit on the shore and fish. I don’t even know that we ever really even talked. The most common spots were fishing at the lake near Hwy 27/I84 and the lake near Hwy 30/I-84. For all I know there are not even fish in those lakes. I think they are man made.
It seemed a regular occasion we drove to the Paul Cemetery to maintain the long flower box seated on his parents grave. I assume it is near the place where he and his wife Shirley are buried. It was on those days I remember playing in the cemetery and enjoying the day. I remember the day I stumbled on Wes Charles drunk next to a tombstone. I knew him from Dad’s work and couldn’t understand why he was different. I think that is the first time I realized people were different when they were drunk. He was beside himself sobbing. Evan explained to me that those stones were not just there for looks but were monuments to people who were buried beneath. That was why Wes was upset, he presumably had family buried beneath. I think this was my first introduction to understanding death. Cemeteries horrified me afterward. It wasn’t until my Great Grandmother’s funeral in 1987 that I saw a dead person and understood more of those people buried beneath the tombstones. A large tombstone near the entrance of the Paul Cemetery became the image of my nightmares. I have since made peace with death, but still the image of the large “Duff” tombstone seems to be the epitome of death for me. It proclaimed the finality of death. In later years learning the gospel and about the resurrection removed much of the nightmare, but it haunted me for a very long time. I imagined in my mind the placing of a body into the ground and when nobody was around who remembered, as Evan regularly did, you were forever gone. While Evan probably had no clue the effect of all this, he played a very real part of it.
There were many, many homes I went with Evan where he did sheetrock work. Oddly, it is with Evan that I have my first memories of my Aunt Sergene. We stopped at her and Bert’s place for something.
Growing up, Evan always seemed to be seated in the big leather chair in the family room at Grandma’s. Somehow, I was oblivious, or he was just always good enough, that every time it seemed I passed the chair, usually at high speed, this arm would appear and scare the daylights out of me. I guess he was just always in the chair enough that he became a part of the chair. Perhaps it was such a rare thing he was in it that it scared me, I don’t know. It was a good scare, not a bad scare.
Evan grew up in a home that was on the same property that Grandma’s house was. I don’t remember the house standing, but I seem to remember the day it burned down. The old barn out back of Grandma’s, the little tar paper shack, the hayrake were all part of what was once his childhood. I felt a connection to it as he did. I remember filling in what was left of the foundation years later and feeling the sadness of what passed with the house. There was some debate that somebody burned it down, I don’t remember who was the one accused. There were tombstones on the other side of the canal I remember Evan taking me to in the trees. There was a tombstone there by the barn which would move around through the years. I don’t know if they had anything to do with Evan’s ancestry, but he knew their location and felt enough to watch over them.
There were the occasional day when he would appear at our house along the freeway to visit. Mother did not make him welcome from what I remember. He longed to see us. I always felt he favored “Sissy” over me but that was okay. I knew he loved us.
I always remember keeping him at a distance. I remember seeing Grandma crying a few times and she would tell me how much she felt betrayed and hurt by Evan. Add that to Mom’s sharp denouncements and I locked my heart to him. I remember one time seeing him at the house along the freeway and nobody was there but Andra and me. We went up to him and Andra hugged him but I refused. I remember the tears he shed that day. I do not know if he understood what was in my heart and thoughts that day. I have never been able to overcome that emotional block. I do remember he came to visit less and less over the years. Christmas and birthday cards were about all that remained. He remarried about two years later to his highschool sweetheart.
Due to the nature of him leaving our lives I always called him Mr. E. E. in the present of Grandma and other family members. Mother had other choice words. I don’t remember Grandma being harsh on his memory, just more disappointed.
My next memory has him at my missionary farewell. He came for all of the church service and gave me a monetary gift and said he was not staying to not cause concern with Grandma and the rest of my family. I do not know if he stayed for the farewell or not. I tend to think he did. I do know he was there at my missionary homecoming two years later. Grandma had passed away and he sat in the overflow section. He lingered after the homecoming crowd of well wishers had dispersed and I walked him to his Buick in the north parking lot. He had a cane at the time. We visited for a moment and he shed some tears then. He told me my Grandmother would be proud. I don’t remember holding ill will, but a bit annoyed that he came to the homecoming.
Since that time we have kept in contact via mail. We responded through letters several times a year until the past year it has increased in number. Mostly because he collected spoons and I was a traveling maniac with Amanda. We purchased spoons for him in nearly all the places we would go and would send them to him. He repaid us for all of them. I don’t know I would have done it just out of the kindness of my heart or at least so many.
Some time in 2004 Evan called me and told me he was heading to Salt Lake to a doctors appointment. He knew I was spraying lawns for Larry and wanted to know if he swung through Cache Valley if we could do lunch. I wasn’t particularly interested but was nice and agreed. We ate lunch at a little Mexican Restaurant in Smithfield. It was good food and we discussed just the lighter topics. Nothing of too much interest other than the fact he brought me an envelope of pictures. I had been mining him for information about Grandma and the family. He had not been very forthcoming until this day. I finally quit asking him about Grandma and asked him about him. He brought photos and I took them and scanned them all for him. He had very few pictures of him and Grandma, at least that he shared. You will notice that I have added the Elliott Family Album to my pictures with Evan’s passing. These are the photos that had only to do with him I kept copies of.
He did finally disclose information on how he met Grandma, some of their courtship, their leaving each other, and their activity in the church. Some of which comments I believe I have even posted here on the blog.
In reflecting upon his death I have a variety of feelings. I still feel a sense of betrayal and emotional blockade. A distancing I maintain for reasons I do not understand nor would I know how to dismantle them. There is also a pity or sadness I feel. Evan always seemed like such a lonely soul. I don’t believe he was depressed or anything like those types of feelings. He was married three times I know of. The first two ended in divorce. The third one was his highschool sweetheart for which he had pictures of from that time. He had no children. Even in his death, it was a time before someone found him after his death. In looking back I see a man longing for belonging and love and I feel some guilt for offering none more than friendship. He loved us as his own children, he told us that many times. I feel a sense of release in a commitment that seemed to be a burden. I have no ill feelings for him and want to weep that I feel a release in his passing. This doesn’t seem my nature to harbour what appears to be some malice or bondage to another. I do not understand the array of feelings I feel with Evan’s death or in reflecting on what I know of his life. I am not sure I will ever truly understand in this life. I am saddened by his death though and that the relationship we have has been growing and increasing incrementally over the years since the mission. Perhaps it is the loss of what could have been in the healing of our relationship. That is certainly a brighter light to look at the scenario, the disappointment of my wanting to mend the broken bridges of the past.
Regardless, I have taken an inventory of my life to a degree. Are there other people who I can do more in extending love and fellowship to? Is this a tragedy? Was he really lonely or my imposed desire for him to be lonely from the betrayal I felt of him in hurting Grandma? He mentioned his fighting in Korea and how he still often thought of it. What happened? Does that explain some of the rest of his life? I will not know in this life.
Who met him on the other side of the veil? Has Grandma and him at any point met to bring any more reconciliation they did not find in mortality? I sense tragedy in the life of Evan’s parents. Were they present and are they all finding their ‘rest’ from mortal cares? Tragedy seems somehow to be the word to describe Evan’s life to me. Tragedy to me or to him?
As I survey the world around me I think how time marches on. Each and every sand grain falls through the constricted glass. Each is numbered and recognized in their place even though not every grain is noticed. How much are our lives the same? Some more recognized than others. But each has our part, whether large or small. “I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.”