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Posted By Opening the Heart

   I read a list of things that people most regretted in their lives: not having traveled more, not having taken more risks, worrying too much about money and not enough about relationships. So, of course, I started doing my own R and R (review and regret). I wish I had tried more new things out of my comfort zone. I wish I had known how to forgive sooner. I wish I had been gentler on myself. I wish I had been less judgmental of others' failings. I wish I had enjoyed more sunrises. I wish I had worked harder at finding things to be grateful for every day.

   It's a Monday morning, 7am and I am sitting with a friend. I should say, more specifically, that I am sitting for a friend and for his family. David died very unexpectedly last Friday. In my tradition, friends and loved ones sit with the body until burial so that the person who has died is never alone. I remember on Friday reading the e-mail: "We regret to inform you of the death of Dr. David M., father of Alan, Carolyn and Rachel; husband of Suzanne..." I had to read it several times to make sure it said what I feared it did. David was my age, which, of course, starts a whole other exercise for the busy mind.

   He was a member of my men's book club and I liked him a lot. I like the men in our book club, but I always thought: "David is the best of us". He always recommended the best books. He was the one who seemed to have discovered these reading treasures before the rest of us and so when he recommended a book, it was because he's read it and loved it. He introduced us to the author Erik Larsen and his best book "Devil in the White City". David knew about Steig Larsson and his famous trilogy ("Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") before most of us had heard of the books.

   David was very thoughtful about what he wanted us to read and didn't want us to read. When the group decided on a book of fiction about the Holocaust, David quietly refused to read it, saying that the Holocaust was awful enough as non-fiction and he didn't need to put himself through made-up horror of the event. He didn't judge anyone else who chose differently.

   I considered David a friend even though we didn't hang out or spend a lot of time together. I remember years ago he called me and asked to speak to me about something personal. I was surprised and more than happy to sit with him one night while he opened his heart about a heartbreaking rift with his daughter. I felt good that I could listen and offer things for him to think about.

   I always felt that my wife and I should invite David and Suzanne for dinner because I knew it would be a good foursome. But I just never did. I also felt that there was more to David than he ended up showing you- that there was more of a story than you ever really knew about. And it turned out to be true. I never knew that he'd had a stroke about a year ago and I never knew he'd had a heart condition and was on blood thinners. He never spoke of it.

   The things I knew about him, I liked. He was sensitive, smart, funny, loved by his wife and children, loved by his patients and respected by friends and community. He was a great dad, a good physician and I regret not being a better friend- not taking the time to know him more deeply.

   But when I get up shortly from sitting for my friend, I will honor him by going out into the cold, gray morning, with no regrets, and being grateful beyond words for the beauty of it all.

   With Love and Respect, Jon   Jon



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