The ache of a heart rended by death and mended by life. – F. Ort
I never expect someone I meet casually, or someone who reaches out to me – to become an important force in our lives, and yet I think those who become that kind of force and/or influence aren’t supposed to show up with flash or pomp or bombast, they just show up. One day without scarcely noticing, they’ve taken up residence in our lives …
It is with great sadness I announce the death of my dear friend Barry Brovender. His bladder cancer, after several years held at bay, could no longer be treated or stalled. It returned in force and spread to nearby organs and bones. Treatments of drugs could no longer help. The last time I talked to him his spirits were high and hopeful. He deferred discussing his condition and prognosis with a simple, “talk to my son Sam”, which I did. ‘Days to weeks’ was the outlook. I wrote about him – FOR BARRY.
This past Saturday March 30 I got a voice-message from Sam.
Barry had moved to hospice. Final stages of life time. Hearing “He is comfortable” allayed my fears for his pain but couldn’t stem this welling of emotion – sadness, loss, missing him, missing our talks and his wise counsel, missing conversations about our kids and grandkids, being pals … soon would be gone completely.
April 1st, early in the morning, Barry died. Part of me died too. Experiences we had together, people we both knew and knowing each other in ways nobody else knew – that just died. Cannot come to life again. Can only live on in my memory.
I wanted to reference something relevant to this subject from an old column – it took me a while to find it, but I persevered and found this excerpt from my Oct. 24/2009 column (I was on vacation in Maui) to share-again, so here it is:
Oct. 24, 2009
Cause for pause this morning; I walked familiar beach where I saw a woman there, standing in frothy water lapping at her knees, coffee mug in right hand, her left clenched her sundress – hiked to keep dry. At first blush, not an odd sight, people stop all the time – to stare at that glassy calm, scouring horizon for a whale fluke or, for some, to stand rock-like locked in trance of meditation. This was different – tears streaming were the clue, not from sobs, but more from unrestrained waterworks expunging something. Sadness perhaps. Maybe memories. Or grief. Or joy. Of togetherness, of aloneness - only one person knows.
We each know what we want, so we think, an understanding of what brings us joy, fears, tears; we each know what makes us happy, what leaves us feeling sad or empty – what makes us let our emotions flow. Any day, any of us could be standing there, flowing tears and nobody would know why. Most would walk by, not a care, unable to react - they have their own tears to cry.
Understanding what we want (you, me, us), and how we go about getting it, is something that interests me both in terms of understanding others – and in understanding myself.
To be here, and to be without inspiration, is something I cannot imagine; to be here and to be without joy is hard to imagine. I imagine, for me at least and maybe too for that woman on the beach today - to look out to sea, to see life, to see ourselves, to stand on a beach bathed in tears is probably more about joy than pain, more about open heart than open mind.
What I need is found here. I know it.
From that piece emerged several replies, none more poignant than this one from Fances Ort in Molokai – someone a short way away who I’d never met:
The exquisite joy of grief. The woman in the surf was me...or I was she...the joy of feeling such love- alone now as he is free. The ache of a heart rended by death and mended by life. She was I and I was she. Who will you be?, FO, Kaunakakai, HI
Barry and Frances never met, except in my mind. Both profoundly impacted me far beyond the stunning realization on that beach one morning – which is to say that people are not ripped from our lives but rather they come and go, ebbing and flowing like tides do. Some are far away and some are always near – in our minds, in our memories and we’ll never forget them. We’ll never know our life without them. They’ve left their imprint on us, not on the outside but on the inside where only we can see …
Who will you be?
I’m in Vancouver for Barry’s funeral this morning …