On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living—that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.1
—Henry David Thoreau
May 22, 2010, seven years ago today, my friend took his life. For the next two years, I did not fulfill the promise of my friend’s life; I subconsciously set about to destroy my own. Part of what is so painful about losing my friend is all he might have done had his life continued and all we might have shared. The promise of his life.
Five years ago this Friday, I stepped down from the Kimray board of directors and from my position as president and began the journey of healing that I continue to this day. I am certain the way I will fulfill the promise of my friend’s life is by fulfilling the promise of mine.
The promise of my life is still being created. I mourn because my friend’s life was cut short, but my life will be short also. It is almost certain that at my death I will think I haven’t had enough time.
What will I do with the short time I have?
I will influence the people I am blessed to be in relationship with. The best way I can influence other people is to love them unconditionally, respect them, and share myself. Authenticity and vulnerability are the fulcrum and lever I can use to help those around me examine their actions, thoughts, and beliefs.
I will change the communities I choose to be part of in ways that make it more likely for the culture and substance of that community to survive once I am gone. I know that sounds odd, maybe even arrogant. However, if I am making an impact where I am, I should transfer the ability to make that impact to other people. If I am not making an impact, why am I still there?
I will find joy where I can and not be afraid of sadness and pain when it comes. I cannot control the world around me, nor can I force the circumstances of my life to align with my expectations. I can choose my response and act in ways that are consistent with my beliefs instead of being governed by my current emotions.
I miss my friend. Loss does not get easier with time. What happens is the space between the times I miss him grows longer. When I do remember to miss him, I sometimes feel guilty because it’s been too long. But if I am fulfilling the promise of my life, I have nothing to feel guilty about. I choose to find joy today in the memories I have and the ways my friend changed me. I choose to be grateful for the road I am on, even though the way I found this road was painful and difficult.
Today, I am fulfilling the promise of my friend’s life, in my own, to the world.