I’ve started and re-started this post more than a dozen times because, as it turns out, I don’t know how to write about the death of a good friend. Nothing prepared me for that — not only the shock, but the pain, the hollowness, the wondering. There are mornings when I run around Davidson and am overcome with sudden and deep grief. When the roads I shared with Patrick Braxton-Andrew are a lot emptier than they used to be.
This weekend marks six months to the day since Patrick, henceforth referred to as PBA as he’s still listed in phone, was taken from a world that wasn’t good enough to keep him. But this isn’t a story of sadness. It can’t be a story of sadness. In the same way PBA lived his life, we must celebrate his legacy.
Summit has the opportunity to showcase one of PBA’s passions and talents, his travel photography, with an exhibit at our Basecamp location where Patrick would drink Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and fill Main St. with his infectious and unforgettable laughter. We will display 18 of his photos, 18 memories so special to him that he needed to pause and capture them. What better way to continue PBA’s legacy than to gather and take in his perspective, his lens, his view on the world? It was a perspective so pure and full of hope, and so Saturday’s art opening will carry with it the same energy.
Soon after I learned of PBA’s death in November, I started reading. I’m not sure why I do this, but in times of grief I find that others who have grieved may provide words I don’t have. And one of my favorite writers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, wrote in an otherwise unremarkable passage, “No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you’ve already had.” I passed that quote along to the Summit staff, who knew Patrick as a customer, a familiar face, an indelible laughter, a friend. I also wrote then some things that are just as true now, and so I want to share them with our Summit community on the eve of another opportunity to celebrate PBA:
“While this grief is something real and intense and breathtaking, and it might not go away, this moment also reminds of the dances. Patrick enjoyed life. As simple as that, he spent his days in happiness alongside others, and as a larger-than-life energy in a world that did not deserve him.
Our communities of Summit and of Davidson are missing something real and something significant. There’s unending sadness, anger, confusion, grief, sorrow and pain. And there’s also a community that’s here, together, to support PBA’s family, his friends, and his legacy.
Patrick enjoyed more dances in 34 years than most do in a lifetime. And for some reasons we may never know, he’s not here. Writing that takes my breath away, again, and I don’t know what the purpose of this is other than to say: we are with you. For those who knew Patrick well, and I am one of the many lucky ones who did, it’s evident what has been taken from us. For those who didn’t know him, it’s also evident I am sure how impactful of a person he was, is, and always will continue to be.
We all need to be picked up in times of sorrow. And like Marquez wrote, no one can take away the dances.”
What’s even more remarkable about PBA was how much he gave. Of his friendship, sure, but also of so much of his time and skills. He gave to those who needed him, to those who didn’t realize that they did, to any-and-all people.
So it’s fitting that, even now, Patrick is giving. His family has decided that the proceeds of all art sold from this weekend through mid-June will benefit Team Summit Foundation, E2D and Davidson College. It’s a common saying in business that your brand is what people say about you once you leave the room.
Well, here we are. And it sucks to be here. It hurts like hell. But my goodness what a way for PBA to remind us to give back, to care for others, to love fearlessly and unconditionally. Six months after he left, PBA is bringing us together — to drink some Two Hearted Ales, to share tears and laughter and stories, to raise money for those who need it and, more than anything, just to be together. What better way to remember PBA than to do exactly what he would be doing?