Great Consciousness of Life

I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life. – Jack Kerouac

It is always shocking when a close friend passes away, especially when it is sudden. And Thursday I received a message that no one wants to get, or give – a good friend was gone. He passed peacefully in his sleep after a short trip. And I immediately felt gutted at the news.

I had just seen him, a month before. He owned a local bourbon distillery and tasting room where I loved to visit to catch up. I almost text messaged him that night, to say hello and see how he was doing, but I was tired and got distracted. I wish now I had sent that text, even if would have not been answered. He always had something interesting to say and I often messaged him to talk about politics or the state of the world. He was kind, funny and a gentle soul. He was artistic and creative and just one of my favorite people.

We met through a mutual friend 12 years ago in Atlanta when he owned an art gallery, and I asked asked him to paint a picture of my parents for their anniversary. He had me take pictures of them, then he chose his favorite one to paint from. To say my parents loved their portrait would be an understatement. It soon became one of their most treasured things, and it became a family heirloom after they passed away.

We talked often about a variety of things. He often talked to me about grief after losing his father, knowing I had lost both of my parents. We talked about cancer after he was diagnosed. We talked about whiskey and he sometimes listened to my suggestions on things to do with his tasting room. He was an amazingly talented artist, and many have posted his paintings. It is a delight to see so many things that he did.

I will miss him, my dear friend. It seems strange that he is no longer with us. It seems strange that I will never again go to the tasting room to say hello and catch up over one of his custom drinks. It seems strange that we will never again have conversations about politics, books, history, or random things.

I am glad that I saw him when I did and that I hugged him tightly before I left. I am glad that I told him I had missed him, and that it was so good to see him again. I am glad for that one last visit, which was such a gift.

And it has reminded me to never take for granted that your friends and family will always be around. Hug your loved ones, tell them you love them. Call your friends, catch up with them and be not distracted with phones and technology. Be present with them.

Life is short – too short sometimes. And I have been reminded once again to live life out loud and full throttle. I was blessed to know him and call him friend. And we should all be so lucky to pass peacefully in our sleep. Thank you for your friendship, the laughter, the conversations, the painting and more. Rest in peace my dear friend.

A Michael Leidel original:

Speak to me

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