Friday, November 18, 2016

Too Much to Mourn

This past week has been fraught with grief.  What with the election results, the deaths of a number of celebrities, and our dear, long-time friend, Jeff.   I hand-delivered the following to Jeff.  We never talked about it again, but we did have more visits and more beer and more laughs in the short time he had left.  I will always hold Jeff close to my heart.  I don't think a memorial is planned.  

(Note to Jeff:  When a friend is diagnosed with a terminal illness it is both a great sorrow and a great opportunity. It gives us time.  Time to ask where they buried their gold or to tell them how much we love them.  I’m pretty sure you don’t have a pile of gold so the first question is moot.  The second, well, that’s the significant one.  I want you to know how very important you’ve been to me through the years and how much I’ve treasured our friendship. 
So, here’s what I would say at your memorial service but instead I’m delivering it directly to you, with love)


“I hope to arrive to my death, late, in love, and a little drunk.”  ~ Atticus


We were flying down the mountain playing follow-the-leader.  You were our leader and you were leading us on turns of riotous speed.  Jeff the crazy-good skier and us just crazy.     Wild memories swirl around in my head...flashbacks of you and our madcap high school days. 

Graduation sent us off in different directions.  Special occasions united us, and then,  following my relocation by a few years, you relocated nearby.  Suddenly we were separated only by a ferry ride.  Keeping in touch became easier and has endured all these many years.

Observing you, with your Buddha focus, move from one all-consuming interest to another, left me in awe.   Your investment was not of weeks or months but years of deep study, dedication, investment and personal development. And then, as suddenly as it began, you would move on.     I’ve watched you shift from skiing, to cars, to motorcycles, to flying, to photography, to rock n’ roll, and finally the stock market.  The single chain linking each activity was a deep, but light-hearted, Buddhist patience.

You are a gentle and kind man, with a quirky zeal for living.  This enthralls me.  You’ve modeled a life well lived.  

The author, David Foster Wallace, explored in his novel The Pale King,  the concept that what people think of as boring and ordinary is really the stuff of life.  Wallace played with the idea of finding peace and wisdom doing the ordinary.  I think this concept sums up your life.  With rote determination, you have dug deeply into your passions, finding satisfaction in the simplicity of study and practice.   Playing a cord over and over.  Skiing until the turns became simple.  Capturing the perfect scene or mood as you took photograph after photograph.  Always searching for mastery of your ardor.

Your life hasn’t always been easy, living frugally so you could pursue your devotion-of-the-decade.  Eating and living simply.  Seven-grain cereal for breakfast and rice for dinner.  I asked you once  if you ever changed the menu and your reply was “I add broccoli, when I can.”  Cheerfully, you’ve sacrificed money to hold yourself whole and to control your destiny.   

Once, at a restaurant in Pt. Townsend, our waitress was not happy.  Her service was slow and without a trace of a smile.  As we were paying, you said, “Let’s leave her a really big tip and turn her day around.”  So we did.  Who knows if we succeeded in turning her day around, but her sad story became our happy story.  

You are loved by your friends.  You are loyal and fun and always good for a trip to the pub.  Your intellect is well-developed and stimulating.  I’ve seen you pin down a conversation with marked exactness.  I feel fortunate for my friendship with you which has spanned more than 50 years.  Throughout these many years love has settled deeply into my heart for you, a compassionate and profound man. 

Photo by Jeff Douglass


"'Learning how to think' really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.  It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.  Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."

~ David Foster Wallace

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