Years ago I wrote about meeting Chuck Berry and giving him a framed picture of himself as a child. Peter K. had given me the photograph and we'd had fun trying to figure it out. In the picture Chuck is on the roof of a building, dressed to the nines, and using a small telescope. It's daytime. The telescope is pointing skyward. And it doesn't take long to figure out that all the shadows are behind Chuck: in other words, that he's pointing it at the sun. I wondered in an e-mail if it might have been an eclipse, and sure enough, Peter K. found out there had been two in St. Louis at around that time.
When I gave the picture to Chuck he was visibly excited. He said something like "Ooh, wee! Where'd you get this?" Then he said, "I'm going to show it to my friends, and you're going to be there when I do!" And off he went, running down the hallway to another hall where a bunch of people enjoyed his reaction to the picture. What made it even better is that my friend Doug was there, and my wife, who did some math with Chuck and his son to determine the date. (American history and practical math. We lived it!).
Here's the thing: You never know when you'll see a person you love for the last time.
I wasn't able to go to Chuck Berry's funeral, and I never went to another show, so it turns out that was the last time I ever saw the man. He was glorious that evening. He'd just put on a very good show. He was dressed all in black, with a black leather jacket and dark glasses. And the very, very last thing he did, before he went down the hall and into the street, was to stand in front of me, lift his dark glasses, and say "You look like Seattle!" And then he was gone, like a cool breeze.
Whatever that means, I'll take it. And what a blessing to have my last glimpse of Chuck Berry be up close, personal and so direct. Thank you again, Mr. Berry.