Stephen by the Shore

Elijah Brown

The air is nice in San Diego

every day of the year,

as I’m sure you probably said.

You loved your hometown,

especially the air by the ocean,

cool and crisp with the salt water’s spray.

You loved your music loud and with soul,

your Stevie Wonder, Frankie Beverly,

and Earth, Wind, and Fire,

you loved to try new recipes,

to put food on the grill and listen to it sing.

The kitchen made you more surgeon than cook,

so focused on the fine details.

When you were six, playing outside while

older family gathered for a televised funeral,

you didn’t know who it was for.

You didn’t know the name Martin Luther King Jr.,

but you had his skin tone, and you were aware

that Mattered.

As a player and a coach, you loved

to command a court.

Basketball had a way of constructing you;

of teaching you how to lose, and

that winning required hard work.

It showed you that life is a team effort,

and that your mindset is everything.

It also constructed your life’s course,

the college you chose to go to, and

that one cheerleader you crossed paths with.

The one who became your wife.

You loved the family you got to grow

and you loved your friends as well.

The people who love you back aren’t

used to referring to you in the past tense,

but they’ll gladly do it anyways. Because

their pride of having known you is greater than

their pain of having lost you.

You never changed the world but

you changed the worlds of many people,

and that was no minor impact.

You enjoyed your subtle existence,

of making ripples rather than waves.

I still feel them now.

I would never say thank you for your death, Dad,

because you never intended on leaving,

but thank you for the last lesson you taught me:

the one about control.

Once the violent empire that is cancer

reaches enough terrain, it’s the one in control.

I’ve admired sunsets and the ocean, but

your cancer was another part of nature.

One I could never admire, but had to accept.

The way you can’t clutch onto water

flowing down a river.

You have to let it go.

I do not believe you are gone,

only that you’ve gone somewhere else.

A place with beaches that aren’t too rocky,

where you can sit in your lawn chair

and bathe in the light.

A place that requires a nice beach,

so you can sit by the shore.