He was an exceptionally gifted man. He knew at least 5 or 6 languages, and was an encyclopedia of culture at a level I never came across again. All that he knew was only outmatched by his extraordinary wit and his ability to write like the gods.
But he carried something very heavy…a refusal of life perhaps, of himself and his own light, that were difficult to fathom. And so he lived a troubled life, one also too brief.
He was gentle, yet often came off as harsh in his comments. He never wanted children, scoffed at marriage and commitment. He was stubborn and difficult. We liked each other immensely, as we were total opposites and yet the same. For a time, we entertained a wonderful correspondence. He saw things in ways most of us can’t imagine. But I saw things too, and knew. And he saw that, and helped me on my path to knowing more.
His accuracy in reading the future was astonishing. And the thoughtfulness behind it. He always said that the future is a collection of likely outcomes, but that we always have choice. And his mission was, if asked, to try to help people make the best choices.
Over the years he did several readings for me. Each lasted hours. At the end he would be so exhausted he could barely speak. I witnessed him in person, so amazingly and fully engaged with his gift. And there isn’t one thing he mentioned that did not happen until now the way he said it would.
His pessimism contributed greatly to his insight and empathy. He did not sugarcoat anything. Still, he insisted that it is possible to navigate life’s most excruciatingly painful moments with grace and courage; inspired by a positive outcome, by the understanding of how in order for us to break free of our inner demons, we have to break… and endure the breaking.
For the last years of his life, he struggled greatly with health issues. Those who were part of his journey more intimately than I was remarked that he survived as long as he did due to sheer willpower. He wanted to live. I wondered why such a love of life from someone who was so pessimistic in his personal outlook (yet not in the outlook for others). Perhaps he knew how much time he had and wanted to fulfill his own vision. But there was something else.
Yes, the woman in his life. A woman who loved him completely, who stood by his side and challenged his pessimism. She was patient. She endured, she gave, she argued, she laughed, she helped.
In the last year of his life, he was physically very unwell. In our last conversation we talked about many things. He was nostalgic, which was very out of character. But what really shocked me was what he said about her…the light in his life.
He, the man who claimed to never believe in what he would tease me were my ‘fairy tales’ about love and connection, told me he had a single regret now that he felt his time in this world was coming to an end. I imagined he would say something about his health. Or else suffering less because of others, being smarter about obstacles, about using his gifts to create a fuller, happier and more prosperous life.
But no. What he said was this: “There is only one thing I regret. That I did not give this woman more love, more of what she needs and so deserves…and now that I realize it, that I don’t have time left to do what I want to do.”
He also said he would have given anything to change it, but what could he give now? Indeed. It was too late.
To say that he broke my heart in that moment with his confession and tone of voice…with the intensity, tenderness, sorrow and deep honesty with which he delivered it would be too great an understatement.
To this day, I have never witnessed regret the way I witnessed it then, from this man who lived a life insisting on the absence and illusion of love; one who pretended to live from the mind, who posed pragmatic, selfish, skeptical and all too ‘realistic’ (which is ironic given his gift); a man who did not really want or need anything or anyone. Ever.
Until he did. And loved more than anyone could have imagined.
It took my breath away. And my tears. And everything. I simply stopped for a moment, in that realization that this kind of regret adds another dimension to life…to death. For it is like dying twice. And more. It’s like dying again and again, hopelessly, embracing a sadness that perhaps can be lessened by grace in some spiritual realm to which we return when we leave this world, but one that can never be lessened in this world.
I’ve been thinking about my friend quite a bit, wishing we could talk. Today in particular, I needed his advice. So of course, I came across this:
“I died last night
and amongst it all,
from way up here,
I saw your sparkle
and wished I had done
so much more
to love you…” ~ Lennox Jones
I suppose he answered. Because I remembered his confession and also how he always told me I too had a gift, and that I needed to use it: create images with words or in other ways. He saw me not as one who makes things, but as one who guides, challenges, asks and nurtures, with a bit of wisdom, intuition and necessary naiveté. While arguing with me at times, he would contradict himself and insist I should always love beautifully, completely, here and now, guided by my ‘fairy tales’, no matter how many obstacles would be thrown onto my path.
I understand better than ever today what he meant, and also, what he did not tell me about the obstacles. He could not possibly say what it sometimes takes to live with the heart. As brave as I think I am, I would have run in the other direction as fast as my feet would allow.
But he did show me the price of not living with the heart, and there is no greater pain or loneliness than in that lesson.