To Carry On When A Friend Passes On
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.
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.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.