I sent a belated birthday greeting to an old friend of mine this morning by email but when it was returned as no such user I discovered that he died twelve and a half months ago.
I didn’t keep our last email exchanges. I didn’t see much point. Now, I wish I had if only to piece together the time from our last contact and his last breath. I’m sure it was only a few weeks, maybe less. He had told me he was not long for this world. And I suppose somehow I knew the truth in his words but there really wasn’t anything more to say or do. I tried to send him a birthday greeting last year. I couldn’t find the words. I also tried to send him a New Year’s greeting but again I found myself mute – and perhaps a little scared to find him no longer on the receiving end.
There comes a time when you have to accept life as it is and death, or imminent death, as well. SPF was a hopeless romantic. He was also brilliantly intelligent – a high achiever with a huge heart. If he truly died in his sleep as his obituary claims, then I will count him among the lucky few.
His obit said he will be remembered for his worldwide environmental work, his generosity and his sense of humour. He climbed the highest mountains in the world and, through his work, he achieved more than most could ever dream to. I asked him how I would know if he died and he said he would let me know. In the end we all die alone but I dearly hope he knew in his heart that he was not unloved, even if he might have thought that to be true.
It’s easy to take inspiration from people who’ve been immortalized by history books and film. Yet we encounter people every day who, sometimes stumbling along the way, steadfastly make lasting contributions to this world far beyond their home and family. SPF was one of those people. His convictions toward environmental and social justice sent him to the far corners of the world and he worked with unending integrity. His work brought inspiration and focus to my early professional development; and his love and friendship was strong and true. I will remember SPF with much love and respect – with all of his flaws and all of his gifts, and all of his being.