It seems only appropriate that the last story I heard was about whale farts.
Whale farts, it seems, was the explanation given to a very gullible young woman who saw the Northern Lights up in the sky and had no idea what they were or how they were formed.
It was a great story with a classic explanation. Best of all, she believed it.
Over the years I heard lots of his stories: Classic embarrassing family tales, Navy stories, work stories, and stories about the outdoors that seemed to overflow with a lifetime -- his lifetime -- of love and knowledge. The stories were so fabulous you would want to take notes so you wouldn't forget. Even if they were about whale farts.
Sometimes I teased him about his stories. He proudly spoke of his mother, a missionary I believe, and how she could say the Lord's Prayer in Chinese. I gave him a sideways glance and in my usual smartassy way said I didn't think that was so hard; most undergraduates can do that on a Saturday night if given enough beer.
For a while the stories became scarce. There were other things to think about and other battles to fight. But over the past few months, they started to flow again: stories about his father, stories about singers and jazz musicians, stories about photography and nature and the outdoors. I heard many of them over and over, but I didn't mind. When he told his stories, he was full of life. I sensed it was important that he tell his stories -- as many as he could -- because if his stories lived on, he would too.
Because his profession was photography, there are thousands upon thousands of lasting visual representations of all those things he experienced in his life. Because his passion was teaching people to love the complexity and simplicity in nature, there are hundreds of articles filled with his wisdom. Most precious to me, though, are his stories, and his willingness to share them. I plan on telling the whale fart story, and often. And then I'll be sure to tell the story of the storyteller to make it complete.
Soon, he will have new stories to tell, and I can only imagine that they will be wondrously amazing. Sadly, they won'’t be shared amongst friends during Sunday brunch over a big steaming bowl of oatmeal. It will be up to me to slow down, look into the crisp night sky and listen quietly. I think he'd like that.
I just hope the whales come and join me, farts and all. I know I'd like that.