Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Complete Enough To Say Goodbye

Napa, California, USA

May 15, 2021

It was a nice visit, somewhat formal - but then again, he's always been a "nice, formal" kind of guy, a friend of my parents before he became a friend of mine, a close friend, as close as it's possible to be without being actual family, and I love my time with him. I've known him for fifty three years, and for longer than almost anyone I've known in these United States. I spent my first night in America in his home in southern California forty four years ago, visiting Disneyland in Anaheim with him the next day. It's easy being with him. The slightly rigid formality of the visit was quite charming as usual. Then it was time to leave. As I stood up, he left the room to attend to something. That's when his wife leaned over and said "The doctors give him about two months to live.". Suddenly I was underwater, struggling to breathe.

When he returned to the room, our actual goodbye was also nice and formal. Given the pandemic, we didn't shake hands or embrace. Nice and formal goodbyes were par for the course with us. Then I left. I was halfway home on the hour long drive down the freeway back to my place, when I said to myself "No! It can't end this way. That wasn't a worthy goodbye. I'm not complete with it ending like this.". "Nice and formal", however charming, had gotten in my way of a goodbye worthy of our history and friendship, which is to say I had allowed  it to get in the way of a goodbye worthy of our history and friendship. I resolved to correct that. I hadn't fully acknowledged him. I hadn't completely thanked him. I'd said goodbye after the visit, but I hadn't said the big  goodbye. I knew I had to step over his nice, formal ways to do this. I resolved to do exactly that, and to be gracious about it, and to have him be enrolled in the process.

I called him at an opportune moment. I shared how I found out about his condition. I shared how I wasn't willing to let him go without him knowing how much I appreciated him and what he had contributed to me, and I enumerated and expanded on as many instances as I could recall which was almost all (if not all) of them. I also shared a moment of regret I had in our relationship: in his presence, I was short with his son on an occasion when they visited my home, something which was uncalled for. I had, as a matter of fact, already taken the time to apologize to his son for the incident, but I'd never apologized to my friend directly. That was now complete. I expressed how he was family for me, having known him for so long. I shared how I said goodbye to my own parents, asking them the questions I'd never asked them, telling them what I'd never told them, asking them to ask me the questions they'd never asked me, and to tell me what they'd never told me. I miss my parents. But I neither grieved for nor mourned them. When we said goodbye, it was complete. There was nothing else left to say. It's being incomplete that hurts.

His tone had changed dramatically. He was suddenly out-here  with me, fully present. The nice formality had dropped like a discarded cloak. He was open and being with me with nothing in the way. He spoke of what it was like confronting his own imminent demise. He said he would put into action (as per my sharing) getting complete with his family in places where there was incompletion (I really liked that: he got that from my sharing; he allowed me to contribute to him in that way). He shared the contributions he had made in life, especially those he wished he had made more of. I countered with how his life had made a massive  contribution (so much so that he himself may not have gotten the full scope of it). It had: he had been an example for me and so many others in so many ways, of an enlightened way of being. In getting my acknowledgement, he paused. I could tell he'd gained the sense his life had made more of a difference than he'd given himself credit for.

We were done. The whole space had shifted. There was nothing left to do and nothing left to say. This  was the place to stand and say goodbye. This  was complete. This  was the platform from which to let go. Now it was easy and natural, as easy as watching the wind blowing a page over in an opened book. I said "Remember: make sure you take time to get it all complete for your family before you leave us. Don't burden them with anything they'll later wish they'd asked you or told you, but you didn't have the time or the courage to ask them to do, while you were still here.". "Thank You for that" he said, "I'll do it.". "Goodbye" I said, "and Thank You!".

Then, with a smile in his voice which wasn't there at the end of our original visit, the phone clicked off, and he was gone. Now that  was a conversation worthy of our history and friendship. This time I was complete with the way it ended. I knew, because I was complete enough to say goodbye.

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