Summer '16 began a death spree in which, week by week, friends, close ones, relatives, loved ones, acquaintances, fond ones, seemed to be plucked from the Earth in rapid succession. Each death came with a different taste, none of which I wanted to swallow. Each loss also came with a unique and brilliant offering.
I believe when loss hurts so bad part of it is because that person, or relationship, or furball had something that we want a little more of. They had that something we adore, or admire, or crave. When we can identify this with each loss, it can help to bring their spirit and special qualities into our world and into our character.
This is the short list of the lessons I gleaned from several beings who sparkled, changed, and warmed our beautiful planet.
1. "Life is fucking short"
JASON MCAIN, Activist-comrade, former office friend, drowning while fly fishing
Jason and I had a pact to never have children. We backed our progressive political position with issues like overpopulation and environmental collapse. When reading of his death I saw he was survived by twin sons. WTF Jason? We had a pact! Upon returning to Colorado I was told by mutual friends that he had decided life was fucking short, he loved his wife, and his wife wanted children.
I love you Jason. Well done.
And, since his death, I too have realized, life is fucking short, I also want children and I am SO grateful he had two while he was here. They will be heroes.
2. Show love.
COREY JONES, Drummer, fellow musician, shot to death by a police officer
I had a gig with Corey the Saturday before he was shot... and had a feeling - I should hug him goodbye before I leave. I hug everyone all the time, really. But sometimes I don't. Or I get too busy or caught up in myself. I was distracted packing my gear, who knows, and then just left. I regret not taking a moment to be present, to connect with Corey, hug him, have a moment with him. I would give a lot to hug him now. A lot of people would. He was my exact age, in perfect health. It's totally cliche, but it's true... Love on people, really be with them. Ask them the questions you'd ask if they were leaving the planet tomorrow. How would your last meal with your mother be, or your last conversation with your strange neighbor? Be present, every time.
3. It's never too late to be the best version of yourself.
JACK MILLER SENIOR, Army Officer, my grandfather, natural causes.
My father described my grandfather as distant and cold. He wasn't a loving or doting father growing up. However, in his old age, he literally blossomed before our eyes... into a sweet, compassionate, and deeply kind man. The morning of his funeral, the waitress at his favorite old western diner started crying when we told her why he wasn't there on that Sunday like every other Sunday. "I will miss that smile. I will really miss him." In his 80s he confessed to my father how profoundly proud he was of him. I knew I was loved and adored every time I was with him; it was abundantly clear in his bubbly laugh and radiant, smiling eyes.
It's never, ever, too late to reinvent yourself.
Or, tell someone you love them.
Or, smile love with your eyes.
4. Be you.
SWEETIE, my favorite chicken, most likely eaten by a fox.
Chickens are cool. Each member of the flock has their own personality. And, most chickens are not that into humans and kinda' do their own thing. Not Sweetie. She was a cuddly and smart Labrador puppy in a fluffy chicken costume. Damn, I'm getting choked up just typing about her. Wild. She loved to be held, and to snuggle in my arms (and bed, lol), and stand like a parrot on my shoulder, and play, and drink water from my palm. All the other chickens were like "you're weird, and clearly not a chicken." They didn't get her. But, she could care less, in fact she was high up on the pecking order. She was just herself, and fun, and loving, and sweet, even when the flock, and evolution, and genetics would have predicted otherwise.
So, be the weird chicken that's strangely sweet and adorable. ;)
TASHI NICOLE KING, dear friend, mother of a 2 year old sweetheart, wife of one of my BFFs, breast cancer.
This one rocked me the most, and has changed my life to the core. Several months after marrying my dear friend Bryan, a union that sent ripples of celebration literally around the world to anyone who had even met either one of them, Tashi was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. They spent the next four years chasing life as it slipped from her beautiful body. They ate, tasted, danced, lived, and traveled with intense purpose and passion.
In the sweltering summer in Harlem, visiting friends, she, drained by chemo, sat fragile on the sofa. "Tashi, you look miserable, lets just chill." She sat in silence for a moment.
They walked the streets of Harlem, saw live music, and laughed while cool watermelon juice dripped down their chins. In a traditional Shambhala Buddhist service we sat with her body, meditating, and chanting Tibetan pleas to release her from her sense of taste, her sense of smell, her sight, hearing, feeling... wow.
I felt despair in the depths of a black-indigo ocean of loss. Like any season, it passed and the nectar of the beings I miss has propelled me into living in a way I had never before imagined.
I have traveled to over 16 new countries in one year, tasted the most beautiful cakes in Scotland, jumped screaming off bridges into aqua rivers in Switzerland, and slept on Swedish train station floors. I risked my entire heart for love, again and again, have felt the highs of neon-flavored love, and been comforted by strangers, crying, heartbroken on long plane rides over new oceans. I have survived deep valleys of loneliness and fear, been cheered on while trail running up mountains in Ireland, and enjoyed long hugs and unforgetable conversations with new faces and old loved ones. I start every morning and end every evening with meditation, yoga, and looking deeply into the sky - I know it brings out the best in me. I've daydreamed, plucked some crazy ideas from my core, and chased them deep into uncertainty. I got my yoga certification, I learned to sail, bought a sailboat, lived on it, loved it...
And now, I'm selling it to move to Australia.
Be the best version of yourself.
(Be sweet). and