Tuesday, March 3, 2009


So quickly the world goes topsy turvy for us--as a nation on a day like 9/11, or as individuals-- when we wake up normally but are suddenly transformed into another dimension by an event. The sun still shines, the sky is blue, cars race across town on their million myriad errands, but we are suspended, all of our usual points of reference askew.

For more than two weeks my best friend, a brother in all but DNA, has been in the hospital with a mixture of uncertain ailments that began mildly but have turned absurdly unpredictable. Bright-eyed and cheerful yesterday morning, finally looking forward to his release, this morning he lies with tremors and is lost in a stupefying dementia, hardly recognizable.

Preparing for a knee replacement, no one was alarmed when it grew more painful and swollen, but an MRI revealed a staff infection , requiring surgery to drain. Even strong antibiotics, however, are not allowing him to heal, and today leaves us all quite frightened.

My gut intuition believes he will recover fully. Just yesterday, we had an involved conversation together about hospital psychosis and the reality that this was not at all a healthy place for him to get better. In fact, the longer he stays, the worse he is getting.

So much we take for granted in our lives. My favorite metaphor is that “…the sun always rises, the spring always comes, the rain dries up and the clouds blow away.” No matter how bleak my circumstances in the past, I have always been able to rely on the belief that life will change for the better.

How devastated I would be if my friend were not to survive!

In the middle of that ski trail last week, my contentment was so profound, I actually feared for my life. Did this incredible sense of peace bode of some impending catastrophe? Would my sunshine set into perpetual darkness? I felt so at One with the Universe, it would have not surprised me were I to be swallowed whole on the way home.

All the more I fear this catastrophe in the life of my friend. As he lies delirious, one can only be in awe of the spiritual questions he must be fighting within himself. This is a man, his mother weeps, who has always been so strong. Indeed, regardless of his chosen profession as physician, his life has been devoted to helping others. Now perhaps he must learn that he can let down and others will come to his aide.

From our days as college students and ski bums, to building additions on his office, to raising children and supporting each other through divorces, we have shared more than most men. I hate that it takes tragedy as close as this to make me recognize the power of such camaraderie. I could hardly bear the devastating silence of his absence.

The Universe presents me these days with several challenges to my sense of mortality. Understandably this comes more regularly as we age. My 85 year old father dreads the morning mail and complains his only reason to wear a suit anymore is to attend funerals.

Still, at my middle-age, there seems an unusual number of events to stress the brevity and unpredictability of our time here. Instead of fear and sorrow, I find my determination grows to make the best use of the precious moments. Not impatient with time wasted, I am grateful to have any at all. But the limitations enforce an urgency, a need to focus, to make better use of fleeting time.

While I try not to judge the details, or chastise myself for lost efforts, my focus is to create value. Believing in abundance, we can have our cakes, but forced to choose, friends and family will always come before dollars. I pause in my busy schedule today to write this sitting near the labored breath of my friend because he needs me far more than I need to pay bills.

We all must do our part to make the world go round, but without devoting our hearts to those we love, without acknowledging the people we cherish, without being there for them when they need us most, that world would be a very desolate and lonely place.

Please share with your friends


Suzann said...

So very true. I will keep your friend close and send golden healing light across the miles.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts are with you and your friend.


Laurie said...

Life is full of extremes. I was experiencing both at the same time a few years ago. While I was being awarded "Teacher of the year" by our city and district, I had just had my son arrested for becoming violent at home. During that time I felt a full rang of emotions and cried a lot. A friend of mine just lost her husband on Sunday to a long term disease after burying her son last fall from a suicide.

Yes, life's highs and lows are very bizarre and somehow act as a calibration from which to judge our everyday experiences. We seem thankful for the highs and confused by the lows but I do believe it is in the valley where we become our best person. We are their for our friends, they are there for us. We learn to persevere, to trust God, to risk. It's where we feel incredible amounts of love for people we may have taken for granted.

No one likes the valleys, and may resent the experiences there, but it is there that we grow. It is there we learn to want more out of life, love, and friendship. The valleys are what cause to to charge up the mountain with determination knowing more about ourselves than before.

I hate the valleys but I think I need them so I'll know there is something more for me to be, know and do.

What a great friend you are Kip. We all need more friends like you. Keep us informed about your friend. I wish him the best (but then, he has the best in you doesn't he?).

Erin said...

Kip...your friend is lucky to have you! It is friends like you that will help him get through this...and he will! E.