Grief hits you not in stages, but in moments, in sneak-attacks. You're sad, and then you're fine, and then you're sad again. And the toughest blows to overcome are sometimes the hardest to explain.
At a reception following my great-grandmother's funeral about 20 years ago, they served fried potatoes, and my mother broke down completely, even worse than during the funeral, when she realized her grandmother was never going to make fried potatoes (the old-fashioned way, with bacon grease and more bacon grease) for her again. She was fine, then she was a pile of rubble on the ground (metaphorically), then she was fine again.
When our friend Jeffrey passed away about four and a half years ago, it was rough. And about 18 months after his death came the roughest moment; during Missouri's 2010 win over Oklahoma, it hit both Seth and me simultaneously that as great as the moment was, it would have been greater with Jeffrey there. He was the best person in the world to have around during celebratory moments. Granted, the grief in that moment got wrapped up with an outpouring of every other possible emotion -- joy, relief, etc. -- and created a supercell of sorts. But there was a pretty serious twinge in the middle of that.
It's going to be the same way with Bill Carter, whose visitation begins tonight in Marceline. We've already worked through the shock, and we've already planned ways to honor him. But there's going to come a time when Missouri again does something amazing at Faurot Field, and my reflexive thought is going to be "Man, I can't wait to see the shot Bill got of that." And it's going to wreck me.
That's an unfair thing to say, if you think about it. In a way, that last paragraph is like saying "I'm going to be sad when I realize he's not providing this service for me anymore." But photography for Bill was a way of expressing love. He loved Marceline, and he took brilliant photos of it (high school football games, etc.). He loved his family, and he took brilliant photos of them. He loved Mizzou and he took the best photos imaginable of it. He loved us, and he gave us photos for free, not only of football games and a random basketball game, but of both my wedding and Seth's. He could do this thing pretty well, and he wanted to do it for us, just because. He said that if he was ever paid for them, he would begin to feel pressure to do it well, and he didn't want that. He just did it, perfectly, for grins and the occasional tailgate beer. And we were just his internet family, not even his real family.
Tomorrow at our Rock M tailgate, we will honor Bill Carter in one way or another, maybe with some words, maybe with a moment of silence, definitely with a beer set aside for him. (That might become a tradition beyond this weekend.) But the best way to honor him will be to follow his example. Whatever you do, do it with love. Become as good at it as you possibly can. Put in the extra dollop of bacon grease. Celebrate successes a little bit longer than you need to. Master your hobby. And when you do something with love, do it for the ones you love. It's a pretty good way of living, and he lived a hell of a life, even if it was a few decades shorter than it should have been.