Funeral for a Friend

“You never realize how many lives a person touches until s/he is no longer with us.” ~ William Gentry


“The flame of his spirit has not burned cold. It’s spark burns in each of our hearts ’til we breathe our last.” ~ William Gentry

He went by many names. To his co-workers, family and some friends, he was Dan, Danny, uncle Danny. His given name was Daniel Robert Michael Smith. He passed beyond the gravitational bonds of this planet on 14 March 2014. But I didn’t know his given name until I signed the guestbook at his memorial service on 17 March 2014. I knew him, like many others, as Саша Фриске, or Sasha. He touched so many people. I never knew how many until his memorial service.

There was standing room only for Sasha’s memorial service and there were plenty more people who could not attend. People were invited to stand up and talk about whatever they wanted. To summarize a few of those I distinctly remember…

Cassie, one of Sasha’s co-workers at the Cinedome, told us about how Sasha encouraged her not to give up her aspirations as a fashion designer. He asked her to make an article of clothing each week and show it to him.

Another young lady, also a co-worker at the Cinedome, spoke about how she felt worthless and was so close to quitting her job. Sasha made her feel special, worthy and helped her gain self esteem. She didn’t quit.

Alex, general manager of the Cinedome and who hired Sasha as an assistant manager, talked about how Sasha and Daniel were the same person, except Daniel talked frequently and fondly of his family.

Ty spoke about several things, but the one I remember is the photo (below).

Devon, an intelligent, well-spoken young man of 19, spoke about how Sasha gave him freedom when Sasha sold Devon his motorcycle. The free feeling of wind in your face and sun on your neck as you ride to some unknown and unplanned destination.

Many others took their turns expressing their feelings, telling their stories, sharing their experiences. There were too many to remember and I apologize for those I cannot remember or failed to mention.

Joe, Sasha’s younger brother, spoke about not getting to spend as much time with him as he would have liked.

Sasha’s mother said she always hoped he would be successful.

After the service, I went to Sasha’s mother and told her that success isn’t always measured by wealth and possessions. Success can also be measured by friendships and the number of lives a person touches. Sasha was a very successful young man. I hope that gave her some comfort.

I was highly tempted to stand up and say something, but I don’t have any “stories” about Sasha to tell. But here is my story.


Like so many of his friends, I met Sasha at a coffee shop, probably Madhouse Coffee on Desert Inn and Durango. But most of the time we shared was at The Lodge Tavern and Coffee House on Durango and Russell. He had this sheepish grin that he’d put on when he was really late showing up for coffee, sometimes as we were leaving. You know, the kind of grin that sort of meant “I’m sorry” but also the type of grin that when he flashed it, it was impossible to be annoyed with him.

Sasha was fascinating. He seemed to know something about everything. He encouraged people be the person they are destined to be. He reminded them not to give up on their dreams, ambitions and aspirations. He was a free spirit. He lived his life on his terms, not by those others tried to place upon him. He seemed to live without a clock because he always seemed to be late, and not just fashionably late. To me, it seemed that when he got somewhere, anywhere, it was the place he was meant to be at. He always seemed to be doing something, making jewelry, working with leather, on the computer, etc. while he was talking with people. Maybe it was out of necessity or perhaps simply because he had so much he wanted to do. But he was always fully engaged with the conversation at the same time.

I don’t think anyone really “knew” Sasha. There were many facets to his life. Separate, but not in complete isolation from the others. Perhaps unknown, yet not purposely hidden. There were the occasional sparkles from those other facets, something about furries or bad movie night, but they were gone almost as fast as they flashed. But if you asked about them, he’d talk openly about them.

While I wasn’t present when the photo below was taken, it’s how I remember Sasha. Every time I saw him he was wearing his leather vest and jacket, even when he came to coffee straight from the Cinedome dressed in a pair of slacks, shirt and tie. Thank you Ty, for taking such a poignant and iconic photograph of our friend (click to enlarge).

Daniel Robert Michael Smith - Sasha

Daniel Robert Michael Smith – Sasha

To Sasha’s family, especially his brother Joe, thank you for sharing your son/brother/uncle with all of us. Our lives were made brighter by his friendship. I knew him for but a short time.  I wish I could have spent more time with him, but it was enough time for him to move in and dwell in my heart ’til I take my final breath.

“To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.”
~ THOMAS CAMPBELL, Hallowed Ground

Sasha/Daniel has not truly died as long as he is in our hearts.


Lastly, I don’t know what kind of music Sasha liked (which is odd because music is such a part of me), but I think this song by Alice In Chains is most appropriate.

Black Gives Way To Blue

I don’t want to feel no more
It’s easier to keep fallin
Imitations appeal
Emptiness all tomorrows haunted by your ghost

Lay down, black gives way to blue
Lay down, I’ll remember you

Fading out by design
Consciously avoiding changes
Curtains drawn now it’s done
Silencing all tomorrows forcing a goodbye

Lay down, black gives way to blue
Lay down, I’ll remember you


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