I am still in shock from hearing the news that my good friend Brent Lambert has just passwed away. Why? Well Brent was one of the good guys. Yes, he was younger than me. Yes, he has kids scattered through the entire spectrum of the public school system. Yes, it was of natural causes and not do to a blameable accident. And yes, he was just too young and still in the prime of his life.
The news came last night at about 10PM while I was sitting at the drive-up window at Weinerschnitzel. First off, I rarely go there for late night food, and I had just called my wife Shelly, to which she did not answer so I left a message. When the phone rang, I just knew it was her calling back so I did not even look at my phone when I answered. But on the other end it was not Shelly, it was Bishop Mark Marshall from our prior LDS ward. "Bishop Marshall, if you are calling me this late, then something must really be wrong." And wrong it was. Hearing the words, "Brent Lambert passed away earlier today" cut me to the core. The scratchiness of Bishop Marshall's voice let me know the agony and tears that he had been enduring since he heard the news.
Nothing prepares you for this type of bad news. Brent is and was a great guy. Yes, he was a computer programmer so that immediately gave him that nerdy/brainy twist approach to life, but he was not the full recluse hermit. Sure, Brent could lock himself away for hours writing code, but there was a good balance to the man. Brent sought goodness, and the Boy Scouting program was the blessing that allowed him the ability to do good in the world, and for us to become friends.
It was about 3 years ago that Brent moved into our L.D.S. ward and I was being advanced from Scoutmaster to Varsity Coach, and he showed up just as his son Alex was 11 years old. He was immediately called as Scoutmaster with very little prior experience. I have watched many men, over the last 28 years as a Scout leader, who were called to a position and seemed to tread forever just dipping their toes in the water. I instanly gained insight into Brent's character and realized Brent was different as he immediately jumped into the deep end of the Scouting swimming pool. If there was a book/manual, then Brent bought it and read it. If there was a recommended training, then he took it. If there was a meeting, and outing, or any activity for learning more about Scouting, then brent was there... Why? Because Brent Lambert was one of the good guys!
Brent was one of the elite in his quest to get the proper training. Part of it was because he loved to learn, but mostly it was because he knew it was the right thing to do. If he was going to become a leader of young men, then he was going to do it the right way. he was going to do it without cutting any corners. Brent was a man of honor.
And that was also Brent's biggest rub (pet peeve). Brent wanted everything right with the world. He was often frustrated with others who did not have the same vision. Brent and I spent many late nights sitting and talking about the frustrations and feelings he was experiencing due to others who were not as fully committed to the cause. And in all of our talks, all I think I ever told him was to be patient with others and continue trying to do his best. After all, he had full control of his own actions, so I always recommended that he continue becoming the best Scout leader that he could be and focus his love and effort on the boys.
Brent and I, along with Jeff Lambson attended Woodbadge together. The invitation was extended to dozens of men and women from our LDS Stake, yet it was just us three who heeded the call. Brent loved every minute of the experience. This was Scouting in its truest form. I had delayed the 6 days of training for over two and a half decades, yet Brent was getting it within his first year as a leader. Why? Because Brent was one of the good guys who immediately recognized the need for the training and he knew that it would help him be a better leader, a better father, and a better husband.
Brent was a Bear at Woodbadge, while Jeff was a Fox and I was a Buffalo. This meant that we were separated at the event, yet we each had rich and rewarding experiences and became permanently bonded in a brotherhood. Brent loved catching the global vision so that he could see how it really could be, and this gave him strength to continue when he would return back to the normal day to day realities of how it really was. I watched Brent volunteer to join his troop with another that was really in need of a trained leader because they had lots of Boys and Brent only had about three. He was needed because the other Troop did not have the luxury of having a man like Brent amongst their geographic boundaries. Brent was up for the challenge, even though he knew it was going to be a tough task, and hence there were many nights spent talking about his frustrations with that task.
It was with Brent that we coined the phrase "Catcherman". He confessed that he always wanted to learn to catch fish. After all, he had been fishing many times. We always laughed about the fact that anybody could be a fisherman, But very few could become catcherman. Brent had been fishing many times without success, but Brent wanted to catch something. It was with great joy as I fished with Brent on the shores of the Maple Dell and Scofield lakes. And both were while we we involved in Scouting events together. Look at the photo below... Yes that is a real fish. And yes, that is pure joy on his face. I had just taught Brent how to drag a fly and a bubble in a little cove inlet at Scofield and you can see that the fly is almost as big as the little itty bitty fishy that managed to get its mouth around it. We stole a little bit of time from the Scout camp activity after dinner and just had a great time on the shoreline as the fish were feeding off the top of the water. Brent's smile is real, and he felt great joy learning new ways to fish.
Brent was overjoyed with the 10" trout that graced his line. We headed back to camp and then he learned one of the delicacies of life, and that is frying up the catch of the day. Nothing could ever taste so sweet and savory as eating the fish that was just brought safely into shore.
Brent seemed to love the analytical challenge of everything. To him, the world operated in a very binary way. It was always either black or white, good or bad. The gray area seemed to drive him nuts. It must have been the computer programmer in him, but everything was best when everything was just a one or a zero. The rest was just too confusing, yet being a Scout leader in the Timpanogos Park First Ward was filled with lots of gray areas, and that is probably why he would always turn to me. I could always seem to help Brent navigate those gray areas. I don't mean the making of less than ethical choices, because Brent would never do that. I am referring to running a Scout program in less than ideal circumstances with boys coming from horrific home lives. And it would always come back to making decisions based upon what was best for the boys.
When I was in a bind earlier this year, Brent and his family helped to rescue mine. I had 3 weeks to transport my family just a quarter of a mile down the road, and Brent was right there, every day, finding ways to help me get my ox out of the mire. Tears flow easily as I try to type this portion of the blog entry. Brent was one of the few with which I had confided. He had watched the Leavitt family struggle to keep our heads above the water. We spent many nights by the camp fire and under the stars sharing our struggles through some tough economic times. And when he heard the news of our need to relocate, he loaded dozens of loads upon his little open sided trailer and transported them to our new address. And on the other end, he gladly unloaded and helped arrange the items so that it could seem like home.
2/3's of the way through the move he once again inquired as to what I was currently most worried about, and I told him it was the kitchen. He said, "Don't worry about it. My family will take care of it." And with that, he rallied every family member and they tackled the task. They spent hours packing it all up, and then twice that amount of time trying to get it all into the smaller kitchen at our new address. They went through every herb and seasoning and discarded the expired. They went above and beyond, while trying to figure out the best layout for my family. They did this out of love, and not out of duty or assignment. And now I am left wondering what in the world they are going to do to survive his death. How are they going to make it through their upcoming days, weeks, months, and years. How am I going to be able to return the favor and bless their lives? How am I going to be able to tell his wife and kids, "Don't worry about it..."
And with that, the sun is now rising on a new day. I am still shocked by the news, and now I get the opportunity to knock on his front door, knowing that he will not be the one to answer, and trying to insert myself into their lives in a way that I can help the Lambert's make it through this near impossible situation. I will go forth, as Nephi of old, not knowing beforehand what I should say or do. What I know for sure is that Brent was one of the few men who made it into my inner circle. He took an interest in me and showed forth love through his actions, and as a result I confided in him with life challenges that most never were aware. I will miss his presence here in mortality. I will miss his love for the Boy Scout program and the young men of the Timpanogos First Ward. And most of all, I will miss his brotherly love.
Our last experience together was in the depths of Spanish Moss Cave as we worked together to help his son Alex complete his Eagle project. Brent was pushed to his limits that day as we scaled up a mountainside to then rappel into the cave and install anchors and reinforce a sand bag barrier. Brent's biggest fear was that he would not have the strength left to be able to ascend back up the rope to ever get to see the sunlight again. I assured him repeatedly that all would be well. And to his amazement, it was. Brent made it back up the rope. For those who have never done this, I don't think you can fully comprehend this anxiety and fear. Brent did not participate in the caving trip because he wanted to go into a cave. Instead, he did this out of love for his son Alex. In fact, I don't know if Brent would have ever gone into a wild cave if it were not for Alex. Nothing excited Brent less than the thought of not being able to climb the rope to get out of the cave. But he did it, and that was a very proud moment for both Brent and myself, when he safely made it back to the surface. I will miss my good friend Brent Lambert!
Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah