One year. 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds…and yet, a certain tiny tick of time seems forever frozen. Why does it seem like only yesterday that my world stopped for a full instant?
December 27, 2013 began just as any day begins. There was nothing particularly unusual about the morning. The sun rose just as the last shadow of night departed. My family still basked in the recent calm from the ceasing of the Christmas commotion.
I casually strolled into the home office of my parents and refreshed the screen of my mom’s laptop. A single salutation emerged in my email Inbox that prompted me to follow a link for the latest update on the health of my ailing mentor.
For a split intoxicating second, I fantasized that his cancer was a mistaken diagnosis and that all was well. However, cruel reality shook me from my false bliss and sucked all of the breath out of my voice. Like I said, it was an ordinary day and yet it was about to become one of the most significant in my life.
I read the words several times prior to my brain comprehending their meaning. “We regret to inform you the passing of … on December 27, 2013.”
“How could that be possible,” I wondered. “For that to be true, then it must be that my mentor, my teacher, my friend, my second Father, my everything is dead.”
As soon as my inner thoughts betrayed my delayed impulses of physical movement, I collapsed onto my knees to the ground. I don’t remember any sort of conscious decision to fall, but fall I did into a sobbing heap.
Have you ever known grief that beckons an autonomic primordial groan? For those of you kind readers who are nodding at this point, please accept my complete compassion and condolences. For those of you who are shaking your heads, please know that no series of words, no matter how poetic, can ever convey the true extent of the ache I will attempt to describe unless you experience it first-hand.
I realize that this post is being published in the midst and aftermath of the end of the year, 2014. Seeing as though I am releasing it the weekend between Christmas and New Year’s, I am not aiming for mass views and comments.
Rather, I am sharing my experience at this moment to honor my mentor and to encourage anyone reading that is struggling with processing grief, to hang in there. If only one person finds this collection of written words beneficial, then I succeeded in my mission to express comfort and kindness.
But I digress…back to the story of this past year’s journey through grief…
As the moments ticked by with anguished agony after reading the announcement of my mentor’s death, a single word saturated every thought that my brain attempted to form: Untethered. The moment before reading the news I felt grounded, safe, secure and certain that I would see my teacher recover and gently laugh in the face of the cancer that struck him without warning.
However, upon processing that lone line of text spreading word of his passing, time for me stopped. My ears rejected all sounds surrounding me in an effort to drown out the uncontrollable sobs that my own body produced. It seemed as though I was watching myself grieve, but the voyeur-esque nature of the situation did nothing to muffle the inner screams of rage and fury welling up inside of my chest.
Torn between acquiescing to anger vs. profound sadness, I floated far above my feelings into a state of temporary numbness and disbelief. What struck me was that I had survived loss before. I had been to a few funerals and “celebrations of life.” Why was his death different?
Or perhaps the more proper question was, “What difference did he make in my life?”
From the moment I met my mentor, Ken, every moment after magnified in importance. Ken could gently analyze any vivid dream I’d have and offer me a valuable morsel of wisdom in only a few words. He demonstrated how to not take myself or anyone or anything too seriously.
As the years of his teaching progressed, the glint of gleeful laughter occupied more and more of his countenance.
Perhaps the greatest gift to anyone lucky enough to call Ken his or her mentor was his consistency of kindness.
At the conclusion of every class, workshop, seminar or one-on-one meeting, he’d conclude with the decree, “Above all, be kind.”
There was not one moment of any instant during his teaching, either within a physical classroom or within a metaphorical one that Ken forgot to check his own ego at the door. He declined lavish offers and plaintive pleas to be a “guru” to others or to have his life’s path chronicled by renowned authors. He lived simply, consciously and consistently.
He stressed the importance of applying the outlook of kindness to everything and towards everyone. Kindness is not being nice or passive. True kindness radiates strength and creates the space for others to choose to seek commonality of interests rather than justification for differences.
In the past year I’ve processed and progressed through the entire classic “Stages of Grief” and even repeated a few along the way. The timeline of grief is different for everyone.
Recently I arrived at the final stage of “Acceptance” and came to two conclusions. Choosing to accept someone’s death does not mean that you cease wishing that they would be in your life. It also does not preclude you from inviting the “departed” to “live” within you and to reflect their virtues in all that you do.
I accept that Ken is no longer alive. I accept that I will not hear his calm voice coax me towards remembering my inner strength when faced with life’s inevitable chaos. I accept his death and yet I embrace the light of his life into my life and seek to share that luminance with anyone who crosses my path.
By demonstrating the same kindness and compassion that my mentor taught, I accept that his legacy of being kind lives on within me timelessly.
Have you ever experienced a moment of grief that seemed to be frozen forever in time? How did you process your loss and what lessons did you learn along your continuous journey towards letting go and acceptance?
Let’s continue the conversation. Please feel free to share your thoughts. All expressions reflecting kindness are welcome here.
Happy New Year everyone. See you in 2015!
This post originally was published via LinkedIn