Poisson and his father, Gary, had driven up the day before from their home outside Atlanta, where Poisson has found work at a burger chain. On Friday afternoon, they stepped from their truck into the Starbucks parking lot.

Before they could reach the door, a brother of Kreutz's stopped them.

He embraced the father. He hugged the son. The two men held tight.

"Good to see you," Chris Kreutz said. "Glad you're here."

They spoke in low tones, Poisson's face reddening as he began to cry.

"Thank you," Poisson said.

"You're welcome."

This was the second meeting between two men who had suffered in such different ways. The day after Poisson was released from jail in October, they talked for almost two hours in a meeting arranged by Chris Kreutz and Poisson's father, who themselves had developed a unique relationship over the intervening months.

"It's about reconciliation," Gary Poisson said.

"This is part of my healing," Chris Kreutz explained. "We're trying to do the right thing, to move on and carry on."

Another brother of Kreutz's walked over to Poisson and hugged him. Then another family member. And a friend. Then a brother's wife. More friends followed. They hugged him and assured him they were glad he was here.

Poisson, a tall man with straight black hair swept over his forehead, teared up with each embrace.

And then Poisson was approached by the woman who first came upon Kreutz as he lay fatally injured in the sleet outside the Starbucks on March 3, 2008. Shawn McCue of Edwardsville gave Poisson a hug, too.

"He needs to know the family has forgiven him," she later said. "It was an accident."

About 45 people then walked across the drive-through lane and stood around a Forest Pansy redbud tree. A small plaque for Kreutz at the ground read, "Friend and Patron." Family took turns spreading ashes. Gary Poisson followed. Then Aaron Poisson gripped the small spoon to gingerly spread the gray ashes.

The ceremony was brief. Poisson, still standing in the emptying parking lot, sounded stunned.

Aaron Poisson

"The family is too gracious," he said. "I'd never ask it from anybody. I'd never expect it from anybody."

Earlier, Chris Kruetz noted how senseless accidents caused by unintended consequences happen every day.

But what took place outside Starbucks on Friday, he said — that was special.

Aaron Poisson spreads the remains of Roger Kreutz on a tree dedicated to Kreutz outside a Crestwood Starbucks Friday as Roger's brother, Chris Kreutz, background at left, and his wife Carrie, look on. (Christian Gooden/P-D)