Yesterday I attended a memorial service to honor a man who left a profound mark on our community. I did not stand up to speak then but would like to share these words.
There was a large crowd, well over 200. In listening to the many memories of Darren and the many good deeds he had done, I learned of the legacy and gift of Darren's time here among us. I heard story after story of how Darren showed up and made things happen, literally. He created a softball program and state of the art facility for his daughter’s high school with elbow grease and I'm guessing his boyish charm. His fellow coaches could not say enough about their friend that would miraculously appear with whatever was needed to manifest this dream. Whether it was a bull dozer or back hoe, Darren somehow showed up with the supplies and equipment needed to make this dream field a reality. He wasn't only involved in softball. Darren showed up for games and performances for each of his 5 children, from ballet to football to softball. He showed up.
Grown men cried, their grief overwhelming, their loyalty and friendship to Darren and his family, resounding. What has Darren taught us?
A picture his lifetime was painted in words and emotion. As a child Darren spent the school year in Healdsburg and summers in Hawaii with his Mom. In what sounded like a wonderful and carefree childhood had to have been at least a bit difficult moving around so. Darren spent time living with many families that still call him brother. The one thing he truly wanted in his life, was a big family. He succeeded in creating a big family, one that went well beyond blood lines.
The net he wove of tasks and deeds earned him respect, but he did more. The tasks were not Darren, the magic was. He brought people together to build dreams and then make them come true. Looking in, it seems apparent that he worked at connecting many people’s lives to create that very big family.
One of his daughters said to me, "I don't even know these people." Feeling, perhaps, lost among this sea of people, strangers who all showed up out of their love for her father. I felt sad for her. Grief is so personal and she seemed uncomfortable at having to share this symbolic goodbye with strangers. Maybe I am wrong, and she too was overwhelmed by the overflow of love.
As the stories continued and folks pointed upwards in reference to him I was soothed by the feeling that he was not above us but rather among us. He wasn't watching over us, he was milling around with a beer in one hand and a Jello shot in the other.
My work brings those in mourning, those with a desire to know if their loved ones are safe, if they are ok. Two constant messages from the other side to loved ones are, "Only my body is gone.", and "The pain I knew is gone, I am at peace." I trust this is true for Darren. A man who asked for nothing and endured pain we know nothing of, is thank God, without pain. We are the ones with pain, not Darren.
What is the legacy of Darren's too short time here among us? Darren fostered enduring relationships and loyalty that will hold his family in their grief and allow them to heal and grow through it. The seeds of generosity that Darren planted will grow through his children and they will feel his love through their community for many years to come.
Darren literally created the softball community. He coached a generation of young women who I believe, saw the example of a "real man". Darren’s physical and intellectual strength, a productive disposition that did not whine and complain showed those girls that you can make something out of nothing. Darren got things done, all with one of the most beautiful smiles you have ever seen.
I remember Darren as a great Cribbage partner with a booming laugh and a sincere desire to make people happy.
As the memorial concluded all were invited to share food, wine, beer and yes of course, Jello shots. Our friend Darren left this world a better place.
Please keep the Barnes family in your highest thoughts and prayers as they begin to adjust to their changed lives. We must remember that the space between us disappears in prayer. God Bless you Darren.
Darren William Barnes
January 21, 1965 – May 11, 2011