To Carry On When A Friend Passes On

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To Carry On When A Friend Passes On

January 11, 2009 Must Reads 9

I’m writing with a heavy heart.  A dear friend has passed away.  He was a key figure in my life and one of my closest friends, in that he understood me better than most, and I think he would say that I knew him better than most.  Our friendship went back 26 years. I loved him as a brother. I can’t believe he’s gone.

My friend had gone with his family to attend his son’s wedding, in Mexico.  He drowned a few days after the wedding, not far from a place whose Spanish name means ‘The Beach of Death.’ He leaves behind a wife and two small boys who adored him.  It seems so arbitrary, cruel even.  

I’ve been to that part of Mexico.  It’s lovely.  I don’t know what happened, but his last moments were surely joyous ones. I’m certain that he was happy in his life.  Communities of people loved him as a mentor and teacher, a musician and story teller.  He had so many friends.  He had just experienced the joy of a wedding, the second of his five sons.  He was having fun with his wife and young children.  He loved being out in nature.  He was swimming, hanging out with beautiful fish, in that special state that happens when floating in the water.  

I’ve alternately gone through several changes around this, shock, then heartache, then saying goodbye, and back to this moment, and I’m still cycling through them.  I’ve not returned calls for days, been moping around since I got home, find myself taking profound pleasure in the smallest of events (my cat coming through the door, a ray of sunlight piercing the clouds) and deep displeasure at the state of the world, a world in which such terrible things happening are all too common.   

My posts from last week were waiting in a queue from a week before so I didn’t have to think or write about anything else.   Now I’m packing for a trip to New Orleans, to speak at the PCMA conference. It’s all I can do to pack a bag and organize my notes.  My mind, normally quiet, is alive with thoughts.

I’ve thought about what this world must sound like from space.  I imagine it to be a loud mixture of drama and comedy, consisting of the sounds of people dealing with illness, death and dying, having sex, sleeping, snoring and laughing out loud.  

The muddle east, that torn and tormented area between Irant and Irave, is in flames yet again.  I’ve thought about how much is lost with every life that passes, because of how connected we are to one another.  I’ve thought about war and peace, and what the future holds for those of us who live on. I’ve thought about those who love and crave death and destruction and thrive on despair, who are willing to martyr themselves and the world around them out of arrogance and pride, no matter what their terrible price exacts of the innocents engulfed in their hatred.  I’ve thought of the difficult decision of self defense in a world where such things exist, and the cost to those who must take lives in order to defend lives.   I’ve thought about how the media keeps score in war, and assigns moral equivalence based on the win/loss formula.  I’ve thought about right, and wrong, and the sacrifice so many make to set right what is wrong. I thought about how I have no grievance with anyone who cares about humanity, even if I disagree with their view of events or find them shortsighted.  I’ve thought about how much I appreciate just that they care at all, because care is often rare where it is most needed.  

Our economy seems to be in a tailspin.  I’ve thought about how losing a job, losing security, losing one’s home and savings is like drowning.  The waves are all around us, pushing us this way and that, carrying us farther out to sea, or too close to rocky shores, and how all we have to rely on are our strength, flexibility and keeping our wits about us.  I’ve thought about all the people struggling today just to make it through the day, to get by, to find a way out of desperation.  I’ve thought about how insulated we each are until death or some other loss penetrates the walls between us and exposes us to the changing tides. 

And I’ve thought about my mission with this blog, which is to help people wanting to make a difference, in their lives, at work, and in the world at large, by sharing what I know and stimulating thought and conversation regarding the skills and attitudes necessary to meeting that purpose.  

It sounds strange to say this, but I think that my friend has given me a wonderful gift in his passing.  I’m seeing my world with new eyes.  I don’t want to miss anything.  I’m taking no one for granted. (And yes, this means you.  THANK YOU for reading and visiting the blog!)  My friends are far flung, and I haven’t talked to so many in so long.  I’m reaching out to them from the inside, and sending them love, hope, and help where I can.  I’m appreciating that this is the only moment any of us has for sure, the only moment that is real, the only moment in which we have the opportunity and ability to change anything for the better.  And I’m noticing that second chances and do-overs are rare and can’t be counted on ever. 

So today, I’m persuaded to post about today, this moment, and making the most of it.  Whatever you do today, whoever you have occasion to interact with, whatever is placed before you and demands your attention, I’m asking you to honor the memory of my friend, Aryeh Hirschfield, by making the most of your moment.  

aryeh2 If you have the chance to express love, affection or appreciation, just do it. If you have the chance to touch someone’s life, no matter how small the opportunity or minute the potential impact, just do it.  If you have the chance to repair a relationship, end a battle, make a friend, forgive someone’s arrogance or ignorance, just do it.  

Do it for Aryeh.  Do it for me.  Do it for yourself.  Do it because this is your moment, the only one you have for sure, the only one that’s real.  

I found a song that moves me deeply, captures some of what I feel about my friend now gone.  It’s called  ‘Wonderwall,’ originally from the group Oasis, this version sung soulfully by Ryan Adams.  I think I’ll learn it and maybe play it at Aryeh’s memorial next week.

Be well,


9 Responses

  1. Rick
    I am so so sorry to hear of the sudden death of your friend and deeply touched by the vivid way you honored his life with the care you took in writing this post. The cycle of feelings, in grief, resonate with me and are a reminded, as you noted to live every day as fully as we can by appreciating our friends, and acknowledging anyone’s acts of kindness and of courage in this volatile year…

    Blessings on you for embodying the qualities you use in describing Aryeh

    Remember the many
    compartments of the heart,
    the seed of what is
    possible. So much of who
    we are is defined by
    the places we hold for each
    other. For it is not our ingenuity
    that sets us apart, but our
    capacity for love, the
    possibility our way will
    be lit by grace. Our hearts
    prisms, chiseling out the
    colors of pure light.

  2. J.D. Meier says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about your loss.

    > find myself taking profound pleasure in the smallest of event
    I know exactly what you mean and you captured it well.

    It’s such a blurry thing when you know how short and unexpected life can be. The challenge is unwinding the moments that matter. Life’s a bunch of moments.

    • Thank you J.D. much appreciated. Yeah, a bunch of moments. I remember years ago, a friend who successfully battled cancer, Joe Kogel, wrote a one man play about it called ‘Life and Depth.’ In it, he postulated that all the great moments in life get together somewhere outside time/space and talk about where they’ve been, who welcomed them in, and make referrals. Joe said he tried to welcome each moment in, “Come in, make yourself at home, can I get you something?’ because he wanted to get the referrals. Even in the hard times, I want to welcome in the great moments, no matter how fleeting. And they do come. Even in the midst of this. Even moments of mere remembering can be amazingly sweet, warm and filling.

      • @Dr. Rick Kirschner, one of God’s jokes is we always don’t recognize the great moments, some seem mundane but leave a lingering “after taste” in our memory, surprisingly instructive, looking back as you are doing…

  3. Steve Dahl says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss Rick. It’s amazing how you and I were both experiencing the loss of someone close at the same time. I lost a neighbor last week and also wrote about it on my blog. He was not a personal friend but an acquaintance. Yet he was close in the sense that I had the experience of being the first one to find him passed out on the street. I began CPR on him. Never did that before. Unfortunately he didn’t make it but he left me with a gift. His wife brought out his DNR or Do Not Resuscitate document after the paramedics arrived. Thanks to this experience, I changed the wording on that DNR for my purposes to Do Not Regret. I’m not living life with any regrets anymore.

    As friends, neighbors, and family leave us, the rest of us have an opportunity to take a second look at how we want to live the rest of our lives. This life is a little like going to the amusement park. We get to experience all kinds of rides but when the park closes, the rides are over and we all go home. No exceptions. You can read the story at

    Steve Dahl

  4. Andrea says:

    Dr. Rick….

    I am sorry to hear about your loss. I am keeping you in my thoughts and heart, with love and appreication for you and the life of Aryeh. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about this loss with us all, surely it has a profound impact on processing this experience and showing us that the beauty of life can be found in some of our most difficult times.

    In appreciation for life,

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