When a friend dies

My friend Chris Albee will be gone from this life four months the 20th of this month; the tears are streaming down my face right now as I write. I am only one of a number of people whose lives were — and I do not use this word lightly — blessed by his presence. He died from t-cell lymphoma.

Some times at night, during the day, it doesn’t matter, the knowledge he has died will strike hard, my fist will clench and I want punch death square in the face with savage fury — again and again and again. Chris was only 49! He had a wonderful wife and family, he had a nine year old son!

It is so hard to find people in life you know you are safe being yourself with. I was always safe with Chris and he would be the first to tell you he was safe being himself with me.

I cannot change the reality of his loss. What I can do is tell you this. Tell the people you love that you love them. Tell them. Tell your children, tell your parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins; tell your friends, tell the person you are in a relationship with. Say it! Tell them. And please, remember to hug those you love, and let them hug you back. Be kind, be kind, be kind. And if you are in possession of behavior patterns that wound yourself and others, do your best to get free of them. There is little doubt they may have kept you safe at one time, but maybe not so much now.

If there is a heaven, Chris is there. I have no doubt of it because if there is a heaven, he damn well deserves to be there.

I love you, Chris.

***********

For Kim & Joshua

 

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Because you’re gone

I’m sorry I could not save you

I swear I would have if I could have

I’ve heard no sound so bruising as silence

Because you’re gone

*

I’m sorry you could not save you

I wonder if you would have if you could have

The sunrise seems smaller these days

Because you’re gone

*

I’m sorry you couldn’t trust anyone

Would you’ve trusted you if you could have

I don’t think you stood a chance

Because you’re gone

*

I’m sorry these words can’t reach you

They would have if they could have

You could hear but you couldn’t listen

Because you’re gone.

*

I’m sorry I could not save you

I swear I would have if I could have

There’s less light in my heart now

Because you’re gone

*

Long gone away

*

Whisper this day gently to me

Set my heart down in the quiet

Say nothing to the neighbors

They’re long gone away

*

Let me rest my weary head

On your memory’s shoulder

Beethoven sooths us both

You’re long gone away

*

My powered legs still striding

Hands cut the water churning

Memories way down deep

So many long gone away

*

Loss knocking on my door again

Tells me love and truth’s not enough

Life keeps coming whispers

Another’s long gone away

*

Love ain’t easy, but…

Fully giving and accepting love is not always the easiest thing to do. It can be downright scary for understandable reasons given the rough sledding so many of us of have gone through in life. However, as far as I’m concerned to love and to be loved is life’s most precious gift. Especially love between people. I make a point of singling out love between people because,  if you’ll permit me the use of a cliché (there’s a reason it is a cliché), love is everywhere.  To wit, I love books, good writing. There are written passages so beautiful they bring me to tears; I’d hold them in my arms if I could. There’s music I love. Music so beautiful my heart beats faster and sweet-shiver chills run up and down my spine. And then, of course, nature herself. Nature is the whole of life and love is a part of the whole. Love is nature’s finest creation, the ability to give and receive love,  its most singular reward.

For the so many of you (and I am in your number) whose hearts and souls are bruised and bloodied by love lost, by the absence of love, by the slings and arrows of those so damaged they’ve come to believe they are incapable of healthy love, by those so internally mangled and misshapen they are, in fact, cruel, I say to you, don’t lose hope. The wounds of history deserve only so much decision making power. Our histories teach us caution. Good. Yes. They teach us to have  the patience to discover what is real and what is not, what is true and what is false. Good. Yes. But they do not deserve so much decision making power they make us shut down, enact the off switch.

So, my dear reader. Give yourself permission to love and receive love knowing that no love between people can be if we do not accept each other and ourselves for who we are. Again, no love between can be if we do not accept each other and ourselves for who we are.

And then there is this ineffable truth; you deserve to be loved and you deserve to give love. Perhaps in this moment you are unclear on this or don’t believe it. Perhaps you’ve been so thoroughly pulverized by the brutality in life you think it impossible. Perhaps you grapple with a combination of all of these. Well, I’ve got good news. Because it may feel impossible does not mean it is impossible, it means that’s how it feels. Because you may, at this moment, be unclear, does not mean clarity is not there for you to discover – it is. And because, right now, you don’t believe it does not mean it is not worthy of belief. Consider, for a few moments, the content of the last sentence which comes right now.  This piece was written, with love, for you.

Remembering Frank Pierce

Frank Pierce died on this day in 2008. The kindness and compassion Frank showed me and the many he loved and cared about was genuine and loving and sincere beyond description. Those who knew him knew a man whose caring and commitment to others, brain injury survivors and their loved ones were what I witnessed the most, was matched by few and outdone by none. He touched the hearts of those who knew him, including mine.
 – Peter

LOVE YOU BROTHER

Remember to say I love you to those you love. I don’t know what it is about those three often maligned and misused words, I love you, that makes them as special as they are, but I do believe that when they are meant, they should be said. Not only to the many who deserve to hear it, but by the many who deserve to say it.

My friend Frank died at 7:35 yesterday morning with the two he loved and who loved him the most by his side. Like many others, I loved Frank. And whenever I’d say, Love you Frank, he’d smile at me and say, Love you brother. And I knew he meant it. I can still hear his voice saying those words to me, Love you brother. He meant them too, all three of them.

The words I love you are remarkably hard for some of us to say. For still others, they are difficult to hear. Still others avoid the phrase because it is has been used as a tool for manipulation and, in some cases, cruel manipulation, in too many scenarios.

However, I think the only necessary guideline for saying it is honesty. Say it if you mean it. Your history, those who betrayed you, used the phrase to manipulate you in one way or another, denied your ever hearing the phrase, none of these people deserve so much control over you today that they stop you from saying it at all.

A woman I love very much said to me recently, “Peter, you love everybody.” Not true. Not by a long shot. Rest assured, there are people I don’t love and there I even people I dislike, some intensely. But what I do believe in is letting those you feel love for know it. While there is certainly such as thing as too much hate in the world, there is no such thing as too much love. However, there is such a thing as not enough love – and not enough expression of the love that is there.

The first game the Yankees played after Yankee captain Thurmon Munson’s tragic death in 1979 was in Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles catcher was Rick Dempsey, a former Yankee and back-up catcher for Munson. The Yankee manager was Billy Martin. Dempsey sent a note to Martin in the Yankee clubhouse before the game. In it he told Martin that he, like so many others, loved Thurman and he, like so many of us, did not always remember to tell people he loved that he loved them. And so, in this note, he told Martin that he loved him.

And so if you love people in your life, whether you love them as friends or more, tell them. Use the words I love you – all three of them. I would ask the few of you who might feel saying I love you is a wimpy thing to do why saying it is so hard for you to do? Were it an act of weakness, to say them, it ought to be easy, no?

Take care of yourselves in life. Love each other as best you can. And when you do, say so.

I am going to miss you terribly, Frank.

Love you brother.