A man I’ve grown to love very much over the years will likely leave this world soon. He is under hospice care as I write these words. His name is Frank. I’ve never known anyone more loving, nor have I ever known anyone with their feet more firmly planted on the granite landscape of integrity. When he does leave this world there will be a little less light in the day and a little more light in heaven, of that I am sure.

Like far too many of us, Frank is a brain injury survivor. It is in the world of brain injury that I met him and discovered his passion for justice and fairness, his wondrous tenacity and his seemingly endless willingness to give to others while asking nothing for himself in return. He is, I might add, well known for speaking his mind. More often than not, lovingly and gently. But, believe me; he can ratchet up the furnace when needed. Not a problem.

On one occasion, Frank spoke his mind directly to me in a way that I will never forget, always treasure, and, in a way that caught me completely off guard. I had just arrived at a podium to speak at conference hosted by the Brain Injury Association of New York. I can’t remember why I was speaking that day but I do know room was packed with an audience numbering in the hundreds. Having arrived at the podium the first words I said were, “I love all of you.” And then it happened. Unbeknownst to me, Frank was sitting in the center of the audience directly in front of the podium. He stood straight up and said in a loud voice filled with heart and soul, “And we love you, Peter!” I knew he meant it. Frank meant everything he said and you can’t say that about too many people, at least I can’t.

Frank told me a few years ago that words I’d said to him had helped him decide not to give up. Who Frank is and who he has been to me has helped me not to give up. Now, in this moment, as Frank moves ever closer to his departure, I find myself wanting to work even harder in life to give hope to those who feel there is none, help someone unfurrow their brow, lift their chin, square their shoulders, raise their eyes.

While Frank may soon leave this world, he will never leave my heart, nor the hearts of the many, many people who love him dearly. Frank will always be in our hearts. Death doesn’t get everything – not even close.


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