Archive for June, 2009

Thoughts on Loss










Last week, a dear friend and colleague died unexpectedly. Of course, most deaths are at some level unexpected, but this was singularly random. All the usual platitudes apply; young, happy, healthy, a family man with an extraordinary commitment to his wife and only son. It has taken most of a week to even digest the fact that he is gone from my world. I still hear his laughter in my head, still remember a recent random thoughtful gesture and still see his wry smile in my mind’s eye. He was one of those people who never hesitated to give something of him, without a second thought, bestowing unconditional kindness on others with no expectation of reciprocity. The world needs more of these people! For me, the most difficult hurdle in accepting the loss was that good people die.
I continue to cling to the idea that there is some sort of cosmic equity in the world; that if you do the right thing most or all of the time, that somehow, it will multiply, and good things will return to you. But here was this individual that managed to touch the lives of almost everyone he encountered in a positive way and this life was abruptly cut short. What is the lesson here? His family, undoubtedly, takes little comfort in the fact that we all remember him so fondly. Does that ease the pain of their loss of a husband and father? Does it even begin to remediate the loneliness that comes in the quiet hours? The answers are beyond my comprehension, and I search for some shred of meaning in it all.
The overwhelming reality that begins to creep in to my consciousness is that life must be lived on a daily basis. There is little or no time for sleepwalking, for meandering through a day as if tomorrow was always there. How much time is wasted in deferring life until another day? How many times must I drag myself through a day of misery, worse, monotony, before I learn that only I can choose the quality of my existence? If nothing else, I must choose to do one thing each day, just for the joy of it. But more than that, I must choose to do one thing each day to make the world a better place for myself and others. That was my friend’s great gift to all of us whose lives he touched. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, and it does not even need to be acknowledged or even noticed. This is not about getting you name on a billboard or on the evening news. This is about small gestures, compliments, opportunities, gratitude, encouragement, empathy. This is about the essence of humanity; reaching out in support of another person, without regard for ourselves, but for the simple joy of giving.
My thankfulness in the face of this loss is that I am alive today to continue what my dear friend started. I pledge to look for the good in every person, every situation, and to take the time to acknowledge it in some small way. Honoring his memory in small everyday ways will somehow stave off the finality of loss. He may be gone from my world, but his spirit lives on in all of us, and must be passed on in turn. Perhaps this is why, when I see him once again in my mind’s eye, he is always smiling.
Post by Julia Conway on June 7th, 2009