It’s been nearly three months since our last newsletter and we’ve gotten a lot of questions from friends asking about what’s up. So for those of you who have been wondering, here’s the answer. Linda and I traveled to Europe in May for a trip that we expected would include travel, play, writing, and relaxation. There was another factor that it ended up including, one which we hadn’t expected: loss. As we wrote in our last newsletter, shortly after arriving in Spain, my computer was lost and that triggered some painful memories, feelings and emotions which eventually contributed to a health crisis that lasted several weeks. I got to experience the reality of the body-mind connection seeing how emotions can affect physical well being, and for the past several weeks I’ve been focusing on healing my body (which seems to be doing much better) and putting work-related responsibilities on the back burner. In the meantime. Linda has been my primary caregiver and has been helpful beyond words in assisting in my recovery. There’s nothing like an illness to help you to put in perspective the blessing of a healthy body.
Many of you have been in touch with us over these past three months to check in, send messages of concern, or just say hello, and Linda and I have found great comfort and support in your words of care. While our trip to Europe didn’t go quite as planned, we received some unexpected gifts that enriched our experience and helped us to not only come through what felt like an ordeal, but to literally and figuratively become stronger in the broken places. Our situation, being in a foreign country, not knowing anyone, and not speaking the language, (not much of it anyway) left us both feeling vulnerable and dependent. Consequently, our contact with friends and family was deeper and more meaningful than usual, and in some cases deeper than it had ever been.
One of the people who provided a high level of support was our friend Ken Druck. I met Ken when a friend gave me his phone number ten years ago shortly after the death of our son Eben. Both Linda and I were bereft and overwhelmed with grief having lost Eben who was killed in an accident. Having lost his own daughter, 21 year old Jenna, five years earlier, Ken knew the territory. As a way of dealing with his grief, Ken had created an organization, named after Jenna, called the Jenna Druck Foundation, that was dedicated to helping young women to fully actualize their greatest potential and to help families in need, particularly those that have experienced the loss of a child. The foundation has since become world-renowned and Ken has become an international speaker who is usually among the first people to be called upon in crises that affect entire communities such as shootings, and other unnatural and natural disasters. After speaking with Ken for less than five minutes and sharing my story with him, he invited me to spend some time with him. Ken told me that I could stay with him at his home in San Diego if I’d like to. The invitation suprised me.
“When?” I asked him. ”Whenever you want” he said. “For how long?” “As long as you want. A day, a week, or longer”. I was shocked and literally speechless. I was also desperate and desperately needed someone to help to pull me out of the pit of grief that had been consuming my life for several months. “How about tomorrow?” I asked. ”Sure. Let me know when your plane is scheduled to arrive and I’ll pick you up at the airport.” “I’ll be there.”
I was blown away. Here was a man, a very busy man with a very full life who didn’t know me from Adam and he was inviting me to stay with him at his home. I could tell from our very brief conversation that he would be able to help me. There was a bit of a transportation problem, however. It was September fourteenth, 2001 and the planes had just started flying again after having been grounded since 9/11. I did manage, to get a seat and left two days later for San Diego. I spent four days attached to Ken as he went from station to station, both radio and TV being interviewed regarding the September eleventh tragedy. Ken also played a critical role in New York in the process of counseling survivors and loved ones of those who perished as a result of the attacks and training other grief counselors.
By the time that I left San Diego, I was experiencing a sense of peace that I hadn’t felt since before Eben had passed away. The pain of course hadn’t disappeared but I had begun to come to terms with the reality of the situation in a way that I was no longer relentlessly tormented by intolerable grief. It wasn’t just the words that Ken and I shared together that enabled me to find some freedom from the agony of grief, but it was his understanding in the nature of loss and of life that he conveyed through his very being that gave me a sense of freedom from the suffering that lives in the territory of losses of all types.
Ken and I have since become good friends and our friendship has continued to thrive and to grow. We have experienced many visits and have taught together at the Esalen Insitute. I have continued to learn more from him about love, about living with an open heart, even in the face of the painful losses, losses of loved ones, of dreams, of hopes, of health, of jobs, of laptops, losses of all kinds. Last year Ken finished writing a book that contains the essence of his wisdom. It was recently published by Hay House Publishers and it’s called: The Real Rules of Life: Balancing Life’s Terms With Your Own, and I recommend it highly to anyone with an interest in coming to terms with the challenge of creating a life in a world that doesn’t always conform to our expectations of the way that we think things ought to be, which I think is pretty much all of us. It’s available online or at any bookstore.
There’s an old saying that the way to make God laugh is to make plans; not that there’s anything wrong with that. After all, we have to have some kind of blueprint to operate from. The trick is to not hold onto it to our plans too tightly. Easier said than done, you say? You are so right! But with practice we can, as Ken says learn to turn adversity into opportunity, turn pain into love, and to be broken and whole at the same time. There may be other life lessons that are this valuable, but I haven’t found them yet.