My friend Roger is dying in Chicago.  I am dying, but much, much more slowly, here in Sarasota, Florida.  I have years to go, and things to say and do; Roger has much to say, but very little time, and less energy, to do so.

Roger asked me to come to see him recently.  I went, with fear clouding my mind and heart.  I have long feared death, and dying even more; so I was not sure what I could offer him that could be of any benefit– of any use, really–to him.

Actually, it was all very simple and straightforward:  He wanted to see me, and we spent time together, talking, listening to music, holding each other’s hands, eating meals and popsicles and drinking cranberry tea.

There we were, two friends, very much alive, though at different points in our lives.  We had met in High School, when we were both 15 or so, and his musicality and humor drew me to him, even as his truthfulness made him a safe companion for me.  His living is every bit as intense and complex and beautiful now as it has ever been; and my life is not diminished by his going, but called forth.

Early morning moon

Early morning moon

Roger was at Stonewall, and acted up well before the organization of that name got going.  He was also a concert harpsichordist, who brought the music of the Baroque French repertoire, and of Scarlatti, to life.  He found his way out of addiction into sobriety, and told those of us at a 12-step meeting in his home one night during my visit about his own fears of, and readiness for, his onward journey into death and beyond.  Ahead he sees beauty and starlight and joy.  He is giving us the gift of sharing this part of his journey.

“Get up, Stand up, Don’t give up the fight!” says the Bob Marley song;  Roger stood up long ago, and only his body is lying down now.  He is not, and has not, been overcome by fear.

All of this leads me to rise up with him, and to renew my work of teaching and seeing and truth-telling as I am able.  To move out of my self-imposed silence.   “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.  There are so many things that matter going on now that it is tempting to stay silent, not to add to the cacophony and floods of information and opinion that swirl around us.  There are many things that are not worth sharing.  But…but, maybe, communicating one true thing, one beautiful thing, as one sees it, can make some difference to someone, as well as to myself.