Since we are not the ones dead

Photo courtesy of NMU

Photo courtesy of NMU

I got word over the weekend that a friend had died. Ray Ventre was head of my department at the university where I taught for eight years. He was a tireless and principled advocate for all of us, from the lowliest teaching assistant to the most self-important faculty member — a servant-master, the rare kind of leader whose success was predicated on that of his charges.

But mostly, Ray was an exceptional friend: intelligent, generous, funny and always, always there. I will miss his stories, his laughter, his concern and kindness.

You didn’t know Ray, but perhaps when you read this you will bring to mind a loved one you have lost — a family member, or friend of the heart. You will be grateful again, as I am, to have been so blessed. And you will feel, too, the sharp contours of that complex, forever void where once they abided.

I wonder sometimes how we do it, how inexorably our human lives go on, while theirs do not. I think of the Robert Frost poem “Out, Out –“, which describes the life spilling from a young man after a buzz saw takes off his hand:

And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.

No one believed. They listened at his heart.

Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.

No more to build on there. And they, since they

Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

Death is itself a kind of amputation; we lose a part of ourselves with the one we love. But we are not the ones dead,  and so we go on.   And miss them, and thank them, and wish them every infinite and eternal goodness.

Blessings on your journey, dear  friend.  Blessings.

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