The shape of goodness

IMG_6879A couple weeks ago, I got one of those phone calls you don’t want to get, the ones that — this you realize later — divide time into before and after.

What?” I said.  “What?”  Uncomprehending.  Because Mike was a runner — perhaps the best known runner in this large and lively running community — and 47, fit and vital.  And yet:  a heart attack at home.  A natural death that could not have seemed more unnatural.

Most of us know though painful experience that the death of a loved one changes our lives forever.  That phone call reminded me that the death of a person we don’t know well can also rend the fabric of our lives by dint of sheer goodness, a rare commodity in a world that has never needed it more.

Mike had been an inspiration to me, a serious runner with a bountiful sense of play that enlivened everything he touched. Smart, funny.  I met him years ago,  a lean, handsome guy who could have blown by lesser runners without a second look, but always offered a winning smile and encouraging words.

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Mike, at left, leading his morning training group last winter. Carol Lawrence/The Gazette

I first saw him during a training run that involved long hill repeats up a winding road that marked the turnaround in an upcoming trail race.  I was 50 then, and managing about two repeats to every four cranked out by the younger runners.  Me slogging up, Mike flying down.  Catching my eye, offering that smile and encouragement: You’re looking great!  Keep it up!

His memorial service a week ago was packed with people who knew him as I did, because  Mike was heavily involved with the local running club.  He organized a sunrise training group,  co-directed a four-race winter series  and frequently volunteered at other events.  I saw him regularly on training runs and at races, always encouraging other runners.  It was Mike who shared my exuberance after an improbable age-group win at a half-marathon two years ago, Mike who poured my celebratory beer in the finish area.

It became clear at the memorial that this generous spirit permeated every area of his life.  Whether with family or friends, at the office, or volunteering for other organizations, Mike was remembered for his support, his work ethic, his good humor.  He had inspired countless others,  strangers to one another who were now connected by grief for a man many of us barely knew but already missed in a way that was difficult to articulate.

.morganstanleycom

Photo: morganstanley.com

Maybe the service consoled them;  I hope, at least, that it comforted those who really knew and loved Mike.  It left me feeling empty and irritated by the officiant’s deference to God’s mysterious ways, which seemed wholly inadequate.  I found no sense —  let alone solace — in the notion of a God who supposedly felt compassion and shared our sorrow over a death He — being God — presumably orchestrated, or at least could have prevented.

But beneath my anger I felt what filled that chapel, which had nothing to do with God and everything to do with human hearts breaking because something deeply, demonstrably good in our lives — whether at the core or along the edges — was suddenly, shockingly gone.   We were helpless, and none of us knew what to do or say.  But we were gathered there, hundreds of us, and into that still and fragmented space rushed whatever stories we had to tell to get through it.  Because that strong runner’s body containing the big and kind heart we could not imagine failing was lying embalmed in a casket about to be put beneath the earth. And the travesty of it — the indecency — could not abide silence.

I am telling a story, too, the one that comforts me. In it, Mike’s spirit has rejoined the whole from which it was cleaved when he came into his body 47 years ago, his energy reunited with the greater energy from which we come and to which we eventually return.  For him, there is an end to the suffering that inevitably arises as we are cast into skin, an end to the essential separation that haunts human existence.  Mike is back home.

Maybe this is true.  And maybe not. It’s just my story,  the story I tell to fill the void Mike left.

But this I do know:  Some people hold a space for goodness, an expanse whose size and shape cannot be fully apprehended until they vacate it.  The power of their presence is seen clearly only in hindsight, starkly illuminated by their absence.  Something larger and finer than a single human departs when such a person dies:  a grace, a hope, a loveliness. An encouragement in a world that desperately needs encouragement.

The phone rings; I pick it up.  Time stops, wavers, then reconsolidates jaggedly around a space, a feeling, a time.  Before and after.

Before and after Mike.

runsignup

 

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82 comments

  1. I am sorry for your loss.The piece was relatable to me.It is difficult and painful to fill the void that is left behind.

    Like

    1. Thank you, and I’m glad the piece felt relatable. It’s good to remember we are not alone in such experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Couldn’t have said it better!!!! Come check me out. I need followers :/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reading. Striking layout and some promising content on your blog. A tip: Create your “About” page (and any others that are not complete) so readers know a little bit about you and what you’re doing; “About”is one of the first places I visit when I’m potentially interested in following. A better tip: Create from what you know, and do what you enjoy without being greatly concerned about response. That way, it’s a worthy enterprise whether or not you get a lot of followers. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautifully written piece full of the raw emotions and feelings we all have to go through at some time. I get it all too well: the phone call, the shock, the inability to accept…
    Beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lovely compliment. Thank you for reading, relating and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      Like

  4. This is beautiful… The loss of anyone always rend a fabric

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, and for your appreciation.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. […] via The shape of goodness — Meditatio Ephemera […]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. […] via The shape of goodness — Meditatio Ephemera […]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s nice liked it ❤ very much

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautifully written Cate. I can totally relate. I too got that dreaded phone call back in May early one morning about the death of a dear friend. Life is indeed short and sometimes makes absolutely no sense. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for reading and relaying your similar experience. It helps — a little, anyway — to remember that such losses are part of our shared experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Your line about energy is so beautiful and something I’ve never been able to word properly. Sorry for your loss and thank you for this x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Thank you for reading, and for your kind response.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Amazing words that really resonate. It is so human to try make sense of something that doesn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. Thanks for your appreciation.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. This is truly heart touching💙

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. “The power of their presence is seen clearly only in hindsight, starkly illuminated by their absence.  Something larger and finer than a single human departs when such a person dies:  a grace, a hope, a loveliness. An encouragement in a world that desperately needs encouragement.”
    Beautiful words that pay tribute to the departed soul.
    Loved the thought and idea behind it and relate to your feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind appreciation and for letting me know you relate; it’s good to remember we always have company in difficult feelings and experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Such a beautifully written piece. I too had a similar experience and I still remember him after 7 years. The kind of people who leave their marks in our life regardless how short or long they have been a part of it are the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree — and often they don’t know the extent of their positive reach. I hope to remember and appreciate Mike for the rest of my days. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Sorrow is basically due to death of a loved one, failure and despair.But these things are temporary and pass away.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not sure that’s always true; deep sorrow may remain for a lifetime, while lesser losses eventually lose their sting. All, thankfully, lose at least a little of their edge over time. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Oh gosh,this is so emotional!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. An emotional subject. Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

  17. What a beautifully written post, and we are both sorry for your loss. A few years ago our home-town running community lost our most prominent member, an incredibly fit family man who founded and organized the most popular road race series in the Hamilton/Niagara area. He, too, passed of a heart attack (while out on a run, no less) despite his good health and having none of the regular precursors that predict cardiac problems. It rocked the community and was a stark reminder that none of us are invincible, no matter how many miles we put in each day. Thank you for sharing, your story shows how wonderful of a person your friend Mike was.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for the sympathy, and for sharing your similar story; these kinds of deaths feel particularly shocking, though of course you are right that none of us is invincible. And I’m sorry for your loss, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Sorry for your loss, you wrote a beautiful tribute.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Kelly.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. […] via The shape of goodness — Meditatio Ephemera […]

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. A beautiful tribute .. In Ireland we say “He’ll never be dead” which I suppose means we live on in the imprints we make in each other.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That seems true. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I believe mike was a very generous person who would still be loved by the whole community again and again and his legacy will still remain. a very touching story of a beloved gone too soon. may he rest in peace.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reading, and for your kind response.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. An absorbing read, thank you for posting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome. Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. It’s a beautiful dedication to happiness and joy, from one person to many others. Thank you for sharing. By reading the comments its clear that your word now have spread his goodness even further.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hope so! I’m glad that more people were able to “meet” Mike through this post. Thank you for being one of them.

      Liked by 2 people

  24. Thank you so much for sharing and writing this. The universe has sent me quite a few messages like this one in the past few days and I am listening. So beautifully written. I felt you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s a lovely compliment. Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

  25. I’m not a runner, but I think if I knew Mike I might have wanted to become one just to experience his smile and encouragement. You do him proud in your testimony, something I’m sure he would have done for you had the tables been turned. Yes, nobody will be able to fill his spot, and nobody should try. Someday you and I will leave this earth, and when we do may we be able to have said about us that we could not be duplicated.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m grateful for your lovely response to Mike’s energy and the compliment of your appreciation. I especially like your wish that, when our time comes, we be remembered as singular, not able to be duplicated. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Śmierć bliskich! Pocieszanie się to ludzka tradycja. Ale ŚWIAT zmienił się. Przesłanie ogłosił Papież Benedykt XVI ”Wieczny Duch Stwórca”. Wiara i życie w JEDNOŚCI z Wiecznym Duchem to uzyskiwanie CUDÓW Chrystusa”Kurs Cudów”, i innych MISTRZÓW z różnych religii. Bez tej WIARY to są tylko urojenia dobrego przejścia w inną rzeczywistość.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Translation for English speakers: Death of loved ones! Consolation is a human tradition. But the world has changed. The message was proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI “Eternal Creator Spirit”. Faith and life in eternity with the eternal Spirit are the obtaining of the miracles of Christ, the “Course of Miracles,” and other masters of different religions. Without this Faith there are only delusions of a good transition into another reality.

      Dziękujemy za przeczytanie i komentowanie!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. This is beautiful. My thoughts are with you

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for reading, and for the caring response.

      Liked by 2 people

  28. Deep, beautiful, moving. One death can change lives forever. I, like you, know this all too well. His essence can live on in you because of what he taught you. Keep up the beautiful writing, Cate.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for your appreciation and your encouragement, which remind me again of the power of kindness.

      Liked by 2 people

  29. Your beautiful tribute touched me deeply. So much is unknown and perhaps we know what we need to: be kind, love, smile, show up. Thanks!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for taking the time to read, and for your wise and gentle response.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Such a tragic story of a man’s life take at such a young age. He sounded amazing how he instilled community with all the encouragement & support.
    Oh, how I hate receiving those calls. Your whole perspective changes in the blink of that very moment.
    A very well written and moving story.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, and thank you so much for reading.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The pleasure was all mind. God Bless you.

        Liked by 3 people

  31. J. Smith · · Reply

    Sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, and thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. It has always been so strange, in a good way, and bittersweet to me that in death we are inspired. While people like your sweet friend spent a lifetime inspiring others, their passing almost seems to push us quickly right into carrying on their mission and their work.

    This was a beautiful tribute to your friend and I pray all of his loved ones have found some peace and comfort.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your kind response. Unexpected death — especially of a young, seemingly healthy person — is a harsh but effective reminder to take nothing for granted.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Raw feelings here, and the questions we all have in the face of death, of mortality. Yup, there will always be times of ‘before and after’. Unavoidable. Painful.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Anne.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. NO ONE KNOWS WHEN SOME ONE COMES AND SOMEONE DEPARTS.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  35. This brought tears to my eyes. So heartfelt. So beautiful. Thank you. May all of his loved ones and those he touched with his kindness find peace. May he rest in peace.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. What a kind and open-hearted response. Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

  36. “The big and kind heart we could not imagine failing …” So beautifully said, and so true. Thanks, friend.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I know you’ll miss him, too, dear Jane.

      Liked by 3 people

  37. A beautiful tribute to your friend, Cate. Such a difficult loss, words fail me and I can only wish you peace and strength.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for reading, and for your kindness.

      Liked by 1 person

  38. D'Arcy Fallon · · Reply

    Beautifully stated, Cate. Yes, the shape of goodness.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, D’Arce.

      Liked by 2 people

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