I met Walt in the weirdest way – you know, the way life is sometimes. I was on a dating site and hating it. Walt was into it, full throttle, driving all the way from Walnut Creek. We went out several times, always with chatter about the news, lots of laughter with similar dry wit, totally fun.
Then, the dreaded day came, the inevitable one when you have to go forward or backward. I gulped and spit it out: the chemistry wasn’t there for me but I wished to God it was.
After a few awkward conversations, Walt suggested, in his usual problem solving way, “Okay, I’ll make you a deal: I’m single after a long marriage, with no clue about dating. Why don’t you coach me on meeting women and I’ll edit your writing?” So, a sweet friendship of fifteen years began and remained until he left this earth. Walt found Trudi, she was the one he wanted. He was chipper after that, always happier because of her, even with his physical illness.
Walt called two weeks before he died. He phoned to say goodbye. I’d never had that kind of conversation before. “Death with Dignity” was planned, though he gently passed away in his sleep. Walt has edited my columns all these years but today he’s not here. I’m staring at the keyboard feeling like I’m writing into a long, hollow, echoing tunnel, with a hole at the end of it.
When someone you love dies, you transcend reality for a while. Ego and fighting seem silly, stupid, irrelevant. Walt and I talked often about history and our humanity needing to get beyond hatred. He would want me to write about the imperative facing us to unify and reclaim democracy. David Brooks described our common bonds beautifully in The Second Mountain. One day on the subway surrounded by hundreds of people, he wrote: “Normally the routineness of life dulls your capacity for wonder. But this time everything flipped, and I saw souls in all of them. It was like suddenly everything was illuminated, and I became aware of an infinite depth in each of these thousands of people. They were living souls. Suddenly it seemed like the most vivid part of reality was this: Souls waking up to the morning. Souls riding the train to work. Souls yearning for goodness. Souls wounded by earlier traumas… souls alive or numb in them; and with that came a feeling that I was connected…”
Death lifts us beyond divides. I believe it’s possible for humanity to do this too… however impossible it seems these days. Walt and I reminisced sometimes about the boomer years, surrounded by the Beatles, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Joni Mitchel, John Kennedy, Mt. King, freedom marches and protest songs like: “War – what is it good for?” We recalled the infinite number of thinkers, poets, and visionaries arising then, from Watergate heroism to women’s empowerment and the still recent ending of Nazi Germany.
Today approximately 57 nations are handcuffed to dictatorships. We are on a very steep precipice. Walt would want me to remind you, no matter which way you lean, lean carefully and vote.
Katy Byrne, MA, LMFT, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the Bay Area for 35 years. Author, The Power of Being Heard. Conversations With Katy.com. 707.548.8982