I have been avoiding addressing something, but I cannot any longer.
I have loved two men in my life (outside my immediate family). I say this unabashedly, and without fear. This love is the kind of love men feel for other men who take friendship to a new level, allowing us space to be unafraid to be afraid, who teach us how to be ourselves, and with whom we can be open. It is filia lived, the kind of real friendship that is too rare in this world. The first, Charles Kinch, was my childhood and youthful friend. I knew Chip and was friends with him from the time I was in second or third grade. The last time I saw him, in December, 1986 (Christmas Day, as a matter of fact) I will admit to being worried about him, yes, but afraid he was planning on taking his own life within a few weeks? Not at all.
Steve Creech, as different from Chip in every imaginable way, kept me sane in an insane situation. Living in rural southern Virginia in the mid- to late-1990's, I felt isolated from everything I had held dear and important. Steve was not just a friend; he was a teacher. He taught me how to live unafraid. Openly gay, faithfully Christian without being doctrinaire, a bohemian in the true sense of the word, Steve loved music and literature and William Burroughs; he was friends with neo-pagans and Anglo-Catholics. He wrote letters in Czech to friends in Prague, who wrote him back in English. He offered me biographies of Anton Levay and Aleister Crowley. We read, together, Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship and Crime and Punishment. We spent hours talking and laughing and solving the world's problems, and I marveled that someone so different from anyone I had ever met could suddenly appear and be who and what I needed.
Even now I can see his too-thin frame, his arms tight against his body, walking down the streets of Jarratt, VA, his head down, his over-sized glasses (Steve was legally blind, seeing a bright haze even with corrective lenses) perched high up on his nose.
Steve succumbed over the weekend to liver/pancreatic cancer. We drifted apart after the first couple years of our move to the midwest. I say this with a tremendous amount of guilt because the fault was all mine. Four years ago, on my first return trip, we visited, and our conversation picked up where it had left off, and it was as if no time at all had passed, rather than five years. This is something that is far too rare in life, and I didn't celebrate it enough, or treat it with the respect and reverence it was due. For that I am sorry, and I hope that now, as the final mystery has engulfed him, he has found room to forgive me.
Please, say a prayer for his mother and brother, and for all those who knew Steve. There has not been, nor will there be again, another like him.