Mortality changes everything. Everything. We wake each morning assuming that we will and that we will meet the bed that night and life could not be otherwise. But when we are aware that one day that bed will be empty, it changes everything. We savor things a bit deeper, appreciate the moment a bit fuller, consider mending fences that have long been in disrepair and find a bit more space in our heart for gratitude and each little blessing that comes our way.
Thankfully, I’m not writing this because of the loss of a loved one or a severe medical diagnosis. The death I am facing is one of the hundreds of little ones a human being knows when confronted with the loss of something you have loved. Without saying too much right now, a dear friend has decided to “retire” and that will end a long and glorious run together. I don’t wholly understand or easily accept the reasons, but it’s not my place to question them. It’s my job to honor them and feel the heartbreak of what will be no longer and the beauty of what has been. And that’s hard work. But probably the only work worthy of our efforts.
At 67 years old, I am no stranger to loss and change. So many colleagues who grew up together making a world at The San Francisco School have left, including my wife. And of course, every year I bid farewell lo some 32 8th graders and their families, some of whom I have known for 11 years. My parents and some dear friends at The Jewish Home for the Aged are gone, as is my Orff mentor and Zen master, my city’s face is changing, as is its affordability and my country is barely recognizable. The loss that comes with life’s unfolding is constant.
But here’s the truth. I’ve survived it all and keep putting one foot in front of another and behold, it is good. This is the change that is inevitable (not the kind the ignorant try to shove down our throats) and to move along with this change is precisely the art of navigating the river of life’s flow. It is good to grieve and let the loss in and good to keep moving down the road that is yours to walk. Different companions may now be at your side, but it is the moving and the path itself that count.
Today I’ve had the good fortune to awaken again. There are papers to correct, Skype meetings to call, e-mails to answer, laundry to be done, the second week of our Orff Course to plan. Internet is down for the moment, the morning air is chilled. The sun shines outside my door and the next step down the path awaits. I lift my foot and begin.