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A Friend Says Goodbye

In late August of 1979, I was still reeling from the accidental death of my fifteen-year-old son six months earlier. I decided to attend an Esalen “Radix” workshop in Big Sur, California. The Radix people believed if we allow unexpressed emotions to remain locked in our bodies muscular armor builds and restricts the flow of positive “Radix” energy (aka “Qi”) through our bodies. My hope was to emotionally unblock, get past the initial mourning stage (I could no longer cry) and free up some energy. 

The workshop leader was a fifty eight year old ex-businessman named Clair. He had attended a Radix workshop a few years earlier and the experience altered his life’s view. He left his high-powered sales management position, trained with Charles Kelly, the founder of Radix to become a certified Radix teacher.

As group leader, Clair was confident without being arrogant, empathetic without being unctuous and had an appealing old glove quality. I immediately trusted him and placed myself in his hands. It was a seven-day workshop and I was one of fourteen participants. Each day’s Radix therapy activities involved “mattress work” where we group members took turns lying on a mattress while Clair sensitively and effectively guided us through exercises designed to free up blocked emotions. The week was powerful and very helpful. I left feeling much more emotionally free and finally began to reawaken emotionally.

Because of our rich connection at the workshop, Clair and I became friends and have stayed in touch over the years by phone and by visits to his home in Ashland, Oregon when I attended plays at the Shakespeare festivals. A skilled carpenter and builder, he designed and built a round mountaintop home with a second story great-room which allowed a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. Clair is a generous host and staying at his mountain home has been both inspiring and comfortable.

After the challenge and satisfaction of building his mountaintop home wore off, Clair, fully retired and in his late seventies, invested all of his retirement savings in an old office building in downtown Ashland and then proceeded to  refurbish it. This included designing and opening an attractive and successful restaurant. It seemed that each time I visited Clair I discovered another of his talents. When I expressed concerned that he had risked all of his retirement security on such a venture. He responded to my concern, saying, “It’s all about risk. If there is no risk, there is no passion or excitement. I’m not willing to just stand around waiting to die, Ron.” These conversations with Clair, and the life style he was modeling, led me to question some of my values and led to important insights about living my life with more passion and risk. Clair was not only my friend; he was also teaching me by example.

One week ago, I received a phone call from Clair, now ninety-two years old. His voice is unmistakable and remarkably similar to that of the actor Alan Arkin—rich with authenticity and warmth. Clair opened our conversation by saying, “Ron, I’m calling you for a reason. Picture a Canadian goose about to land in a lake after a long, cross continental flight. He lands on the water smoothly and gracefully and prepares for a long rest. That is me. I’m in hospice now and I’m ready for the next step in this fantastic journey called life.” (Clair sprinkles all of his talk with such Esalen, “humpot” jargon—it is part of his charm) He explained he is in the final stages of prostate cancer, it has spread into his bones and he has fewer than six months to live.

He thanked me for my friendship and said he was calling those folks in his life with whom he had made a genuine, loving connection and I was on the list. I told him I was both honored and appreciative he had called. We talked for a while about life and how short and beautiful it is. He confessed he had always tried to live his live ethically but he had not always been emotionally available with those he loved. He wished he had been better at it but he was trying through these final phone calls to go out on a “real” note. I could hear the effects of the pain medication in his voice but he was lucid and totally present during the conversation.

Before he finished our call, he said, “I love you, Ron—you helped make the ride a special one.” I said, “I feel the same way, Clair.” As I hung up, I felt the tears and the pain build and experienced a peculiar mix of gratitude and sadness.

I have had two similar conversations with close friends. Like Clair, both had come to terms with their impending deaths and were able to say goodbye to those they loved. Each call was, to me, a gift. Yes—each was painful but I am grateful I had the opportunity to say goodbye to my friends. When my final days arrive I hope I have the opportunity and the courage to do the same with those I love.

 

Comments

Comment from Misty
Time: October 25, 2012, 6:51 am

There are those in the world who don’t really understand the value of consciousness or the work/path of seeking it. Here is a great example of the gifts it brings, deep connection with others, love at the limit, blessings all around. Misty

Comment from Patty
Time: October 25, 2012, 1:43 pm

I’m impressed with not only how he is handling his death, but how he handled his life. What a special man.

Comment from Anne Kost
Time: October 29, 2012, 11:05 pm

Dear Ron,
Your Email came at a very special time in my life. To be able to be with a loved one ’til the end (or is it?) is to know that love never dies. To have been able to recall all the beautiful times that were shared is a gift that will never be forgotten………thank you,
Anne

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