Losing A Friend
Years ago a very close friend, Ron, visited my mountain home in Big Bear California. I had known Ron for many years. As our lives changed and unfolded we managed to stay close and continue our special friendship. We would spend hours reflecting on life and supporting one another through various twists and turns, and ups and downs. Those times of reflection were my favorite. We talked about love, the world, politics, God, and even death. Whenever I had a “great idea” or found myself pondering a life issue I would call Ron.
He would listen.
We would talk.
Life was grand.
A Special Promise
During his visit to Big Bear we took a hike in the mountains. We came upon a huge redwood that had been struck by lightening. Although it was still standing tall its trunk had been hollowed out and charred. Like two little kids, we decided to see if both of us could fit inside the trunk, quite a feat since Ron was over six feet tall. While inside the tree, laughing at our silliness, Ron shared with me how special our relationship was and gave me a blue feather he had found during our hike. It was his gift of the moment and with it a promise to always love me and be there for me. We finished our visit that day with a wonderful dinner and of course a profound discussion about life. He gathered his things and drove down the mountain to his home in Los Angeles.
That was our last time together. Weeks passed and I received a call informing me that Ron had taken his life. His body was found in the gardener’s utility room with a suicide note pinned to his shirt. The funeral services were private, “family only”. This was all the information I was ever to receive. Of course I was in shock. My grief process included persistent haunting questions. We had talked about so many things but never ……….suicide or despair or hopelessness.
What had I overlooked?
How did I fail?
Why didn’t he come to me for help?
I missed Ron. I missed our talks. I missed the sanctuary he provided me. Life was different now. He promised to always love me and to be there for me. I was angry, hurt, and confused.
A Promise Kept
On a particularly lonely day I walked to the edge of the lake.
I had stopped thinking and my mind and my heart were still. It felt good to have the questions stop for a while.
I experienced a quiet calmness and closeness in my thoughts about Ron that brought both peace and comfort. At that moment I felt compelled to sit on the shore at the lake and capture the feeling of the calm. As I sat, I leaned back moving my hand deep into the sand. I felt something soft and intertwined in my fingers was a single blue feather.
In a flash I remembered, one of our wonderful talks included the promise that relationships last forever. Death does not change that promise or commitment.
I felt his presence, I re-experienced our relationship.
The aloneness fell away.
The Feathers Keep Coming
Over the past 23 years I have continued to receive feathers. They fall in my path, slide down my windshield, or become lodged near the middle of my front door awaiting my arrival home.
I have over 100 feathers, in various shapes and colors. I have received feathers while in Europe, New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Indiana during the funeral of my sister and later the funeral of my father. I have received feathers on a golf course in Hawaii, and lying on my computer keyboard in the morning. My most memorable feather was given to me by Barbara, a woman with advanced Alzheimer’s who had long ago lost the ability for meaningful communication. Barbara handed me a beautiful feather stating with perfect articulation, “this is for you”, of course it was brilliant blue. She smiled and scurried away.
The feathers seem to come during perplexing times when I need support or a listening ear, and also during times of great celebration. Those very same times I would always share with my friend Ron.
And Relationships Continue ……..
I have shared this story with hundreds of people and many have reported back to me that they too have “feathers”. Sometimes it is the chiming of a broken clock or the reappearance of a lost memento, a dove that will not fly away and yes sometimes it is a feather.
The lesson of the feathers is that relationships do not end. They change their form. One of the primary tasks in our healing process is to reconnect with the relationship, to become accustomed to the new form. When we can do this the grief and sorrow will begin to lift.
You will find this philosophy woven into all the work we do here at Journey Through Loss and for that reason you may find an occasional feather reminding us to listen to the whispers, to pay attention to those wonderful life-like dreams and to embrace the knowledge that sometimes comes during quiet still moments.