By john sobert sylvest
Last weekend, David Joseph and I were walking across the park to Tom and Eloise's house. It was very dark and a bit chilly. The sky was mostly clear with stars peeking through and Venus was very bright and near the moon. We had taken our usual cut-through the tennis courts and were on the football field when David asked me how many more hundreds of years it would be until the next meteor shower. As if to correct himself, he asked: "Or is that something else I am thinking about?". I told Dave that he was thinking about how long it would be until Mars was that close to earth again but that meteor showers happen all the time, some more spectacular than others. I asked Dave: "Do you remember that last big shower when we were up in the middle of the night? And that great big one that lit up the sky?". He said: "Dad, how could I ever forget THAT? If anyone had been with us to see that, even if they didn't even believe in God, they would believe in Mr. Tom!". That's for sure. We still believe in Mr. Tom.
And we still believe in Tyler, too.
And we still see everything we saw in his eyes when he'd smile and greet us. There was always something dancing in his head, one could tell, a certain excitement about being with people and just being alive. It was like there was always so much that he wanted to share that it was a challenge for him to choose from among the many things that he could offer for discussion. This dynamic of engagement, of truly being with you, was never more evident and never more vividly on display for me than opening night of The Little Prince. I'm going to say something about that, but first I'd like to share my last interaction with Tyler before he left us to join his Dad and our God.
It was just a few short weeks ago. As usual, it was me and my David. We were in our little green truck, not going anywhere special, just enjoying the fact that it was still the holidays. I forget what Tyler was driving but my memory wants to say it was the van. Our encounter would consist of one of those situations where, no one else is on the street in front or behind, and, not feeling rushed, your eyes meet another's and you both just stop and roll down the windows to say hello. And this doesn't happen that often to most of us, but it does happen often enough. I guess it is just because, for whatever reason, at that particular time and with that particular person, a wave, a smile and a nod just won't be enough. I guess it happens when a wave and a nod just won't be enough to satisfy that human longing for a more depthful exchange of hearts. And I know this particular musing of mine is investing a lot in a common occurrence that happens to people all the time, but it does occur to me that it is touching on a very important dynamic in human relationships. At any rate, it turned out to have even more significance to me because, not long after, I would be thanking God that I had been gifted with that memory as one I could nurture and hold onto. The backdrop was that our whole family was pleased that Dustin had recently graduated from Delgado, pleased knowing Tom was pleased, too. So, when that topic was brought up, someone mentioned that we had to get Dustin over to 321 N. Millet for a hug. Becky then chimed in and said: "Yeah, and I've been missing Tyler, too." So, here we were, Tyler and I hanging through the vehicle windows with my David squeezing in over my shoulder to join the howdy doodys. Our words were: "Merry Christmas!" and Tyler's back: "Merry Christmas to you, too!". We talked about Dustin graduating and I asked him how school was going for him, too. I told him that we had a little something for Dustin's graduation so tell him to get his butt over to our house. "And you come, too. Becky just said she misses you, too, and several of us could use a neck massage." He did his little characteristic laugh with that wide, wide smile of his, where he would throw his head back indicating that he "gotcha", then we waved, rolled up our windows and drove off. So, that was my last encounter with the Little Prince.
On opening night, we'd arrived early, not leaving anything to chance with respect to parking or traffic, even though we had advanced tickets to pick up. Nick had already tipped me off about Tyler's involvement with the technical crew, so we were looking forward to seeing Tyler, too. Turned out, he was the first person we saw when we came through the door 'cause he was behind the table selling tickets. His face lit up as our little Gramercy home crowd entered, a half dozen of us. Things weren't busy yet so he made a point of situating us in what he considered the best seats in the house, not the first two rows, which were still open, he pointed out, rather these a couple of rows back. He then pointed to the ceiling and to his projector and told us he'd be projecting scenes up there and that we'd be more comfortable and better able to see if we were not immediately underneath them. He was so excited and anxious for us to see Nick and Justin and Jessie, but mostly Jessica. You see, Nick being an awesome performer is something one can just take for granted. "But just wait. Just wait 'til you see Jessie! She is SO good at being so wicked. Watch for the snake!" Tyler was especially pleased to tell us that he'd be jumping up onto the stage for a scene, too. And, when he did, he was positively beaming, totally in to it, as I'm sure you could tell. It was one of his finest moments because one could see that he was truly belonging, belonging to a group of playmakers that included siblings and others who had been laboring months together in a process of bonding that was more important even than the end production would be itself. I sensed very strongly a very significant turning point for Tyler, a very formative period of development wherein the superficial peer pressures that had tried to shape him, as they do all young adults, were losing their grip. And they were being replaced by the affirmation of people who were more depthfully loving and accepting, life imitating the very art it was portraying on stage, the stage performance emulating the very story that was unfolding in Tyler's life. Veronica and I had visited The Big Top the week before and Nick had showed us around, given us some flyers and such, even told us where to park when we'd return for the show.
I had taken the opportunity to tell Nick, what he surely already knew, that, at that particular time in Tyler's life, that he (Nick) was as a god of sorts, that, in so many words that I forget, precisely, he might seize upon that dynamic to help take Tyler to the next level of his development as a young man. And so it had indeed come to be that, with a little help from his brother and sister and brother-in-law and friends, Tyler had indeed made it to that next level.
Tyler did make it to the next level. One could tell. One could see it in his eyes. Something was indeed dancing in his head. After a period of incredible personal, spiritual growth, no doubt accelerated by a deeply transformative pain of loss at a crucial point in his spiritual formation, he had learned a secret, a secret that would henceforth sustain him and a secret that must now sustain us, too:
Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
Nuture these memories of Tyler. Pray to him and with him. Find a quiet place to be still and silent. Imagine that he has crossed your path, flagged you down, rolled down his window and smiled that dancing-eyes grin and know in the core of your being as your Little Prince's eyes say it all: "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
john sobert sylvest