When a Dear Soul Passes On

 

My dear friend, Earl, died yesterday. You may remember my writing about him a few times.

Earl was a bright and engaged 88-year-old black man. He was over six feet tall, lean like the swimmer he had been, and was one of the most curious and reflective people I’ve ever known. He was in our meditation group for nine years, showing up every Monday to meditate silently, and then participate in our discussion. He would ring the bell to start our meditation periods and end them, and also lead the group in slow and moderately paced walking meditation. One time he asked us, where else could I go, walking in circles around a room and have ten women obediently following me? We roared with laughter.

During our meditation meetings, I would meet privately with participants for 10-15 minutes if they wanted time with me, and Earl always did. He liked to explore ideas. He would often try to praise me for what I was doing and for my own practice, but I reminded him that he, too, was one of the few who meditated on his own and that he was a steady presence for our group. He loved to talk about spirituality and G-d and other big ideas. I would often argue with him when he would describe “controlling the mind” which really can’t be done; when he contemplated leaving his church because of disagreements he had with the pastor or with some Christian ideas, I’d encourage him first to explore and investigate his own discomfort and what that might be about.

And he often would share what he had learned—about his religion and his life.

Earl was a generous soul, a loving husband and father and dear friend, but would often be tough on himself. I think those personal demands contributed to his success as a policeman in New York, and eventually a defense lawyer. But I suggested as he got older and had proven himself, that he could be kind to himself, too. He would nod his head, acknowledging the truth of my comment.

I refused to discuss politics with the meditation group, and later, when I discontinued the group. Inevitably he would have a question and say, now this isn’t political, and proceed to ask a question about politics. I never figured out if he really thought it wasn’t political or couldn’t resist asking the question. And I continued to refuse to discuss politics. That was just our dance.

When Earl first became ill, I would visit him. Just a few weeks earlier we had begun to read and talk about Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart. After my first visits to his home, I suggested we take a section each week and discuss it. Eventually, I suggested another friend, who had also been a regular meditation group participant and also was a friend of Earl’s, join us. She was a snowbird, but when she was in Florida, the three of us would meet, meditate and discuss. We had deep and thoughtful discussions.

When it was clear Earl would not be recovering, we made an agreement with Earl’s wife to call every Sunday to see if Earl was well enough to visit on Monday morning. And every Sunday when I called, Earl or his wife said he was ready to meet. Last Monday he said we really didn’t need to continue calling (which he had said on previous occasions); we explained that his wife had asked us to call, so if we stopped, he needed to let her know. He assured me that he would.

He passed away yesterday, Sunday, from sepsis and organ failure.

In many ways, he is still with us. I will miss him.

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There are 12 comments.

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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Our minds are funny things. We come in contact with many people. Over time most recede from our memory. But it is those that die that seem to be most “present” in that memory. Possibly because so long was we do not know that an acquaintance has died there is a complacency about re-establishing contact; an expectation that because we can, we will. But when death arrives that complacency is ended.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Our minds are funny things. We come in contact with many people. Over time most recede from our memory. But it is those that die that seem to be most “present” in that memory. Possibly because so long was we do not know that an acquaintance has died there is a complacency about re-establishing contact; an expectation that because we can, we will. But when death arrives that complacency is ended.

    So true, @rodin. I was so fortunate to continue my contact with Earl. He would tell us every single week how he loved meeting with us, that there was nowhere else he could have this kind of meeting (meditation and discussion). It was easy for him to express his gratitude, and a blessing for us.

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Be at peace, Earl.

    My prayers for his friends and family.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Although this is a deeply personal post, if it gets enough “likes,” I’m allowing it to go to the Main Feed. I think that people should be encouraged to express their losses and acknowledge death. Too often we try to brush death away instead of remembering that death is part of life. As is pain.

    • #4
  5. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Percival (View Comment):

    Be at peace, Earl.

    My prayers for his friends and family.

    Ditto from us too.

    • #5
  6. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    It sounds as though Earl is going to be missed. 

    Susan, I’ve never come across anyone quite like you, a woman who seems to have searched for transcendental meaning  throughout most of her life.  I think that kind of searching evidences a depth of intelligence and character.

    Though certain answers from the transcendence may never come, the searching itself may be the answer in disguise.  

     

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    It sounds as though Earl is going to be missed.

    Susan, I’ve never come across anyone quite like you, a woman who seems to have searched for transcendental meaning throughout most of her life. I think that kind of searching evidences a depth of intelligence and character.

    Though certain answers from the transcendence may never come, the searching itself may be the answer in disguise.

     

    Thanks so very much, @kentforrester. I’m deeply touched by your comment. The search is often the most rewarding part of the journey. You’re very kind.

    • #7
  8. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Susan, I am sorry for your loss. Earl was very special to you, and I am in awe of the way you have invested in him (and so many others) over the years. Just beautiful.

    • #8
  9. She Member
    She
    @She

    I am so sorry.  And I feel so privileged to have been (perhaps) one of the last folks to have shared stories and memories of Earl with you before he passed.  God bless him.  And us all. Please give his family my best.

    • #9
  10. ShaunaHunt Coolidge
    ShaunaHunt
    @ShaunaHunt

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing Earl with us. 

    • #10
  11. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Condolences to Earl’s family, and to you as well Susan, on the loss of a good friend.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The friend who met with Earl and me came over today. She played a musical meditation that she found the night Earl died. She realized afterward that it was called, “Together Again.” It was so beautiful that I wanted to hear it. She played it to lead off our meditating together, and we sat for a while. Then we talked about Earl and our history with him. It was a wonderful memorial.

    • #12
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