Myles Knebel was my brother-in-law from my first marriage. We didn’t chat much at the time, but I always knew him to be a good person and supportive member of his family.
It would be nearly 25 years before we spoke again – and this time, it was through Facebook.
It’s 2013, and Facebook’s computer algorithms postulate that I might “know” Myles Knebel. I send him a friend request, he accepts it. A short time later, he and I have a little Facebook instant message conversation; he tells me that he’s living in Oregon and working with farming and mechanics and handyman work and such. He just finished building something for his mother, who also lived out in Oregon.
We chat about a few things – whether he will have time to visit my daughter / his niece Cassaundra in Washington at some point in time; he says he wants to and would like to see her again. We talk about funny things – at the time, the “Prancercise” video was going viral, we had a good laugh about it.
And after that conversation, we wished each other the best.
We didn’t talk after that; but I kept an eye on Myles’ Facebook page and his news feed. I saw that he was working with seed exchanges and farming endeavors; that he was a handyman for the United Unitarian Church in Eugene, Oregon; that he was part of a group called the “Avant Gardeners,” who offered new ideas and new techniques for farming. I Facebook-liked some of his actions, he Facebook-liked some of mine.
We didn’t talk again, but I was happy to read about his latest endeavors – bringing produce from a community garden to a food bank; building wooden speaker boxes for his church’s meeting place; playing his guitar and singing songs around a campfire with friends.
And then, yesterday, came the messages on Facebook that no one expects nor wants to hear. The ones about “sudden loss” and “finally found peace” and “I miss you.”
Myles Knebel passed away. And the questions of “why” and “how” and “for what reason.” And the answers “because” or “we don’t know” are not sufficient or understandable or even acceptable.
From everything I knew about him, Myles was a wonderful son and brother; he was a great uncle and father; he was a beloved friend and supporter. And if there’s anything we can take from the short time that Myles spent on this earth, if there’s any comfort we can accept, it’s knowing that in that one chance, that single appreciation of life and all its blessings, he did what he could to make the world a much better place.
It’s the old Boy Scout mantra – “Always leave the campsite better than how you found it.” And for all he did with his church, with his family, and with his gardens, Myles Knebel did so.
And maybe that’s the best message to take.
Rest in peace, Myles. You may no longer walk upon this earth, but your good deeds and your kind heart remain; and the memories of your generosity will be carried like seeds of joy throughout the garden of time.
And for all of you, let’s take this message to heart. Reconnect with those whom you’ve lost in the mists of time and distance. Send them a message, even if it’s just “hi, how are you doing.”
Make that connection. Before that connection is lost forever.
Do that today.