There is a saying attributed to Ram Dass that “we are all just walking each other home.” Until I heard from Evan Elliott that Bud had died, I had never felt the truth of this statement as I do now.
I now feel how blessed I was to have Bud Elliott on my walk of life. I took for granted the weekly or monthly visits, and bumping up against his booming opinion with which I mostly agreed, and saw both his amazing poise and patience, and some moments when it did not hold.
In our almost 20-year-long conversation, I experienced his pride and vulnerability, and his intellect and stubbornness ... and his love. Simple experiences of humanity that I took for granted as “what is” and did not much examine in the course of our time together.
So as I share my grief with those who are also feeling the loss of this friend. I just want to offer to those of you in Leadville who I have not yet met how much he loved you all as a community. Bud loved being from and of Leadville. He loved raising a son in their chosen small town after the loss of his wife at a tender age. He loved being a small business owner who grew to love being at the table of political decision-making. He loved pulling apart other positions on community issues and trying to evaluate if he was right. He loved volunteering wherever and whenever he could share his sparkle and lend his hand and voice to the occasion. He sort of loved running for office, but I think the multiple losses pricked his heart the way rejection from a lover can. He loved being out at local music venues belting out the words of an Allman Brothers song or some favorite when played ... he loved “schooling me” in pool at the Pastime, and meeting my husband John and I at The Grill as we landed in town on a Friday night to share highlights and ruminations from his week.
During the past year, Bud loved our walks and talks in the cemetery as we both navigated the pandemic. In the fall, he started bringing a walking stick along, explaining that one of the nearby neighbors had an aggressive dog that had attacked another walker and their dog and “he needed to protect me.” Naively, I failed to see that he was actually feeling a little weak in the legs and would not own this until the day before he died. Bud had been advised to move to a lower altitude and he was fighting it like an unbroken mule at the bit. He could not leave this beloved town that was so much the fiber of that frail heart. It’s not completely clear what finally broke that frail heart — COVID-19, failing health or the combination — but either way, our hearts are broken by his loss.
So, lifting a Moscow Mule (Bud’s recently discovered favorite conversation lubricant during our outdoor cocktail hours), let’s toast Bud Elliott one more time. Truly Leadville, this Bud was for you. In his walk home with all of us, he gave you his love, his energy, his care and his life.