Today would have been the 43rd birthday of our dear friend Woody, unjustly killed in his prime by the police five years ago. He and I had always talked about celebrating our 40th together---we were both born in 1964. Sadly, he never made it to 40, so these subsequent birthdays and holidays can sometimes be like salt in a wound.
Today, his family came to Mary's inner city senior center to celebrate the English as a Second Language (ESL) class which they have funded in his memory. The students demonstrated their learning, expressed their gratitude, and we all shared carrot cake (Woody's favorite) together. His death has brought to life so much, and his memory fuels the dreams of many.
Time is an interesting agent in this human world of ours, and its passing can bring many things: healing, forgetfulness, faulty memory, nostalgia, forgiveness. I long ago forgave my friend for leaving us so soon. I am yet to fully forgive those who took his life. They apparently did so in full belief that they were carrying our their duties. For me---for us---their miscalculation and blindness towards human nature left us bereft of a loved one and family intimate. Forgiveness can come in many guises, yet I still do not know in what guise my ability to completely forgive will arrive.
For now, sweet memories flood my mind, and the special place in my heart where his memory lives is sweetly sad. His physical absence is palpable, and the desire for him to walk through the front door is tremendous. His friendship and kinship are irreplaceable, and his loss is undeniably harsh. This suffering is a meditation, a place from which to learn non-attachment and release.
This day is, for us, a holiday, and in recognizing its importance and sacred sweetness, we honor not only our departed friend, but ourselves.