As a new year begins, I’ve been reflecting on losses I experienced in 2013. Since I’m getting older – this will be my year of Jubilee, where I celebrate a half-century of life (gulp!) – thoughts of one’s mortality and that of others feature more prominently….
Almost a year ago today, a well-loved, justice-minded, 50-something physician, Brian, went for a swim in the Pacific while vacationing in Costa Rica. The beach was no stranger to he and his wife – they’d vacationed there before – but this time was different. He didn’t return. His body was later recovered indicating no fowl play, even though he was a competent swimmer and loved the water. A week or so later, we celebrated his abbreviated, self sacrificial life on a cold snowy Saturday on the upper east side of Manhattan.
In April, on the morning I was to visit a 4-year-old (with an old soul) battling an aggressive childhood cancer, his mother called to tell me Sebastian had lost the fight minutes before. Though as a physician, she’d come to realize his death was becoming inevitable, she was in shock and hadn’t yet called the hospice. I joined them in a packed church in Yonkers and wept alongside his doctors, his 2 siblings, other family members, and friends.
In September, we lost Alicia, a 30 something year old public relations professional who passed away after losing her fight with brain cancer. (I wrote about Alicia’s life and death in a previous post.)
And on the morning of Thanksgiving Day, Vincent, the 44-year-old proprietor of the shop in the lobby of our building had a heart attack. We’d talked the day before as I was leaving for Washington DC when I’d bought some last-minute chap stick from him. He was usually my supplier of long-distance phone cards. He expected to be open on Friday even though he knew it was a holiday weekend and many of his regular customers would be away. But it was not to be.
And of course, who can forget the 3 African Statesmen we lost this year?
Chinua Achebe, beloved Nigerian novelist and writer, who died after a short illness in March at the age of 82.
Kofi Awoonor, Ghanaian poet, intellectual and Ambassador who was killed in the terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September.
And Nelson Mandela – who’s passing on December 5 at age 95 – marked the end of a remarkable era in the life of South Africa and in deed on the continent of Africa.
What a privilege to have lived during their all of their lifetimes. May that be said of us when our time here on earth draws to an end too.
Happy New Year!