I planned to offer different words for the beginning of this new year.
Not of gleaming promise and fresh, bold starts. Nor of resolution and freighted intention. I don’t make the former and too often, I believe, we burden the latter with such expectation, we are left with the detritus of collapse before we can even take flight.
But I do believe in clearing space to make way for the new, that charging forward with the brightest of hopes and dreams will yield little in the next 12 months if we have not prepared the way to receive that for which we yearn. Sometimes the sweet fragrance of fulfillment finds us only in the letting go — of a relationship, a job, a set of beliefs or stories, whatever it is that impels the longing for an alternative or looks far different than the high and holy vision by which we steer into another January.
This is the trail I thought I’d follow, the words I imagined carrying into 2016 to share.
But today, I sat in a shiva-style gathering for a beloved friend who lost her son on Christmas Day. I did not know him, had met him only once at a party last January. But oh, how he came to me in such strong and vibrant detail. With every memory shared, every testament to his character and tribute to his walk through the world, I beheld the generosity of his heart, the kindness he laced through the most ordinary of encounters.
I learned about his smile, an ever-ready flash that warmed its recipient with an imprint that lingered long after their parting. I marveled at his acceptance and deep sense of equality, at the arms he opened to the marginalized, the fringe, those in need of an ally against the prejudices that dogged them.
In story after story, I heard of his gift for connection and conversation, how his love of music inspired joy, and how he reveled in those open places that sang to him of God. He came alive in ways dynamic and gentle, considerate and playful, a man I wish I had known but was grateful to glimpse through such tender recollection.
And though it can be the way of death, to crown our loved ones with every virtue and gild every harvested impression, I sensed a true portrait of a man who gave repeatedly, of his time and talents, yes, but mostly of his heart.
While I sat with his devastated mother, brother and stepfather, and other dear ones holding him close, what I saw simply was love: that it is the only true gift we have to give, all we take with us and all we leave behind.
It was the link in every reminiscence, the echo that filled the room. Of course, he will be missed, and the journey of grieving him will be long and harrowing, but what a well of succor he left from which to draw. What a blessing to hold such a tapestry of love, with new threads to discover in every tale that calls him forth.
So as I embrace 2016, I am reminded not only of our fragility but of the preciousness of every moment that clasps us together in invitation to cherish each other. These are the moments in which we will live on.
And though I may harbor as many plans and possibilities worth exploring as the next hopeful adventurer sailing into this new year, I promise myself only two things:
Give love. Be kind.
Ron, this one is for you.