Death is Life: Farewell to a Friend

I received sad and unexpected news yesterday that a long-time friend and mentor, Allan Reynolds, suddenly passed away this week. He had passed away, as it turns out, only hours after I received an email from him congratulating me on all that I am doing and wishing me continued success.

I have been rolling around in my mind many images, conversations, laughs and experiences we had together in more than 20 years since we have known each other, since he was my boss when I worked in the PR agency world. He was, without a doubt, one of the best PR pros in the country. I have been trying to find a way to deal with my grief, and have come to realize there is no way to “deal with” grief, but only to experience it and go through it. Plain and simple: I feel sad.

Death, as a topic, is not something I had intended to write about much here in my blog, not in this space, but with this news of my friend and mentor’s death, and the recent passing – and near death — of other friends and acquaintances, I find myself in a state of reflection and contemplation, filled with questions that have no answers.

Death is not a topic people want to read about, because deep in our psyches we cannot comprehend it and, probably more importantly, do not want to face the hard truth that one day, we, too, will slip away from the physical world; this world that we have come to know by our human senses and feel comfort in experiencing our existence, even if that existence is a mere illusion.

For centuries, philosophers, writers, scientists, theologians and other deep thinkers have pondered our existence, the world on “this side” and “that side” of the veil that is fragile in its ability to separate “this” from “that” — and whatever lies ahead. I am one of those ponderers. For some, religion offers grievers of lost loved ones support and some wisdom in its dogma, tradition and writings. I just find no comfort in any of it.

I am reminded of a book I had read not that long ago about happiness. The author tells a Buddhist parable, to paraphrase, of an individual who begged for Buddha to bring back to life a loved one who had just died. Buddha told this individual to visit all the houses in the village and see if they could discover one house not touched by death. Alas, the individual found no house not touched by death.

What I seem to be resisting, and yet, slowing coming around to accept, is this: death is life. The death process begins at birth. Therefore, we are all dying from the moment we are born. As we age, we are touched by death more and more.

Only a few months ago, I had the opportunity to thank my friend, Allan, for the skills and knowledge I gleaned from working under his wing and guidance many years ago, when I was in my 20s. He groomed me to be a professional. As we sat side-by-side at a gala dinner, his lovely wife on his other side, I thanked the grey-haired, bespectacled, jocular, loveable, hard-working man who still called me “kid,” for playing an important role in making me who I am today. I had thanked him in the past, but for some reason, that night, the last time I would see him, I felt drawn to repeat myself.

And now I know why.

It is never too late to thank people who have touched your heart, support your endeavors and challenged your ideas and dreams. These are the people who help us grow and succeed in life. The two most powerful words “thank you” take almost no effort to say, and yet can have an enormous impact.

Who can YOU thank today?