“One woe doth tred upon another's heels, so fast they follow."
Sometimes we simply do not have words for it.
For me the cumulative it that has left me speechless was the death of my dear friend John Stephure. It seemed and still seems impossible. It still seems unbelievable. It has seemed at times unbearable. It seems, although untrue, that I will be sad forever. And I cannot even imagine what my dear friend Meredith, who was married to John for 38 years, is enduring. And their children. And his siblings. And all of his other friends who knew and loved him even longer than the almost ten years we did.
I have asked myself why this man’s death has left such a hole in my heart and in the hearts of his family, so many other friends, colleagues and acquaintances. I guess it is because of his own good heart. John’s heart was open, honest, benevolent, and full of fun and purpose and it was a “no strings attached” kind of heart. He sometimes (although rarely) wore his heart on his sleeve but it was always a living, breathing, beating heart that never resisted the “generous impulse,” never had a hidden agenda, and never missed the chance for laughter.
Rachel Remen, physician and author of Kitchen Table Wisdom, wrote “You can get a lot accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit.” John was able to make all kinds of things happen, large and small because he only cared that it got done. He didn’t want the credit.
It has been shocking to me that I find it all so unbelievable. The gap between my intellect and my heart is enormous. No matter how many times I have written and spoken about the “moment” and how anything can happen, and how precious life is, I cannot “get it” yet that John went for a Dr’s appt on June 10th and died 18 days later on the 28th of June, having never left the hospital. I find it impossible to imagine that I will not see that face nor hear that laugh nor have him as my teaching partner ever again. And beyond all that the additional loss of no longer getting to see him with others - how he was when he was with X or Y or Z. (and how they were with him) Or no longer getting to see that sunny face or the subtle and ever so kind ways that he quietly gave to individuals going through cancer and other difficult life challenges. And especially no longer seeing him with his beloved family.
I have no words of comfort for his loved ones. Every word sounds trite or a mere platitude. I have no words for myself either. It is the poets that I turn to for reminders. I think of Kobayashi Nobuyuki, who published Haiku under the name of Issa. When his beloved daughter died he struggled to reconcile the Buddhist doctrine he sought to embrace – that life is transience – with his deep desire to hold his child again.
In the year 1819, in the sixth month, Issa, composed the following haiku:
The world of dew
Is the world of dew
And yet, and yet.
My friend Patsy after weeks of my silence, kindly sent me this poem from Rumi.
Secretly we spoke,
that wise one and me.
I said, Tell me the secrets of the world.
He said, Sh... Let silence
Tell you the secrets of the world.
And Karen sent these words:
“to love a person
is to learn
that is in their
and to sing it to them
when they have
And an old friend from
And so we need each other in this life of ours. We need to be reminded of what we forget, of how precious it all is. We need to be held, to speak, to be silent, to weep and grieve and mourn as well as to celebrate. Together. We need to embrace our humanness. When we lose those we love, no matter how spiritually aware we are, we miss them. And it is mostly unexpected, no matter how prepared we think we are. It is a loss that doesn’t get replaced. We learn to live with it. There is now a missing pearl in the beautiful strand that makes up our lives.
I have been silent because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I also didn’t know how to tell the joyful stories that also happened during this time, especially in
For awhile, I am in
Thank you for your notes. I am sorry to have worried you, dear readers, and dear friends. Life indeed goes on and the best way to honour John’s memory is to live fully. John was a gift in my and Gottfried’s life, and his death left me speechless. It is time to speak again.
With appreciation, gratitude and love to you all, and in memory always of John (who mostly liked my blog and wanted me to keep writing it)