The night before Scot's funeral, I saw this man driving this antique Thunder Bird. It made me think of Scot. The beautiful sport car antique he built was not a Thunder Bird, but a Corvette. Red and white. He did let me take some preliminary pictures of it one time. To my eyes, the Corvette looked perfect - beautiful, as beautiful as a car could ever be. But Scot was not quite satisfied just yet. He wanted to do a few things to it yet. Then I could rephotograph it and post the pictures.
That was the last time I saw the Corvette.
I hope I see it again. I still need to take the photograph.
From the day he died until this day, May 28, the day of his funeral, I had been thinking about Scot almost constantly. For some reason, my mind keep skipping ahead to the funeral and it would picture Scot there - but up and about, dressed in a sharp looking suit, a tux, looking happy and fit, pleasantly taking charge of his own funeral to make certain it was done right. This is the kind of thing I had seen him do throughout the four years I knew him, whether it be in the upkeep and maintenance of Metro Cafe, which he had designed and built, or the invention and test launch of his magnificent gold-washing machine that I called a "Super Sluice Box," or a barbecue at his house.
No matter how hard I tried to juxtapose reality upon the image in my brain, that was how I kept seeing him: smiling, happy, vital; looking sharp in his tuxedo suit under a blue sky, the sun shining down warm and bright upon him. While I knew Carmen, Branson and all of Scot and Carmen's families were suffering in a much greater way, the eight days between his death and burial were hard on me.
All because one day four years ago, I had pulled up to the drive through of a brand new Wasilla business. I was not looking to make new friends. I was looking for coffee - and for a coffee shop close to home, one where excellent coffee of high calibre was served. Sure, I planned to photograph whoever I found behind that window waiting to serve me. I often did that - be it at Taco Bell, Dairy Queen, McDonald's or any of the myriad of coffee kiosks spread all about Wasilla I bounced back and forth between.
I photographed the servers and baristas at all these places and we exchanged friendly words and smiles, as anyone would, but that was it. This time, it proved different. Virtually from the day I pulled up to the window of the shop Scot had designed and built as stage upon which Carmen could choreograph and act out her talents before the community, Scot and Carmen had somehow become friends.
During the funeral mass, I did not take any pictures inside Sacred Heart Catholic Church. I needed something to represent the church service. After it ended, I stepped out the door, saw the Christus in the distance, hurried to the other side of it and then turned to look back. The sun was hot. I lifted the funeral program toward the sky, framed by the Christus and the church and shot this image.
Scot, smiling, looking sharp in his tuxedo suit, the sun shining down warm upon him.
Margie and I fell in line in the red Ford Escape and followed the procession to the graveyard - about half-a-mile from Metro Cafe. After Scot was removed from the hearse, Carmen placed her hand upon his casket. She and Branson took a final walk with husband and father.
They placed their flowers upon his coffin.
Scot was lowered into the earth. Father Andrew Lee raised his hand above the grave and prayed as those who loved Scot most knelt, bowed their heads and prayed silently with him. Some wept.
Father Lee announced that the service was over. Mourners were now free to leave and to drive to Evangelo's to dine at the Celebration of Life or go their own way.
This meant the professionals would fill in the grave. Then Tony Villasenor, Carmen's father, walked to the pile of dirt, scooped up a handful, sprinkled it into the grave and invited all of us to do likewise.
Margie did so just ahead of me, then moved on as this man sought to comfort Branson. I thought about how badly my father's death hurt and how deeply I still miss him. I was well into middle age when he died.
Greg, Nola and Shoshana - not related by blood, but still family, bound by the love generated by Carmen and Scot at Metro Cafe.
There were a variety of food, vegetables, meat cuts, mushrooms and pasta served at Evangelo's, including three flavors of pizza. I remembered how good the Evangelo's Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza Carmen had ordered to celebrate Branson's First Communion had been, so I chose it. It was as good as I remembered.
Before we left, Carmen gave Margie a big hug. She smiled big. This is just how Carmen is. In the worst time of her life, with so much hurt, pain and loneliness yet to be suffered, she finds the courage to smile, to make others smile.
"We love you," Margie told her, her voice shaking with emotion.
And we do.
We love you, Carmen. We love Branson. Your mom and dad, all your family.
All because one day we drove up to try out a new coffee shop.
Flowers and a cake for Scot.
As Margie and I left so I could drive her to Anchorage to resume her babysitting duties for Lynx, who had fallen ill, we found these vehicles of two of the mourners parked out in that part of the parking lot reserved for the Scot Starheim party.
Carmen and Branson are going away to her native homeland of Mexico for a month, but she promises to return, to keep Metro Cafe going.