Day 44 - Legacies
We talk all the time of the legacies of important people - presidents and other high-ranking politicians, business leaders and millionaires - people with money, power, prestige. We pay homage to them with buildings, businesses, libraries, parks and gardens, and debate the value of how they affected our cities, states, countries and continents.
Less often do we stop and think about the legacies of those who have touched us personally.
Less often do we consider how much more profoundly the “little people” affect us; a president or politician may affect the economy, but he/she has little impact on my heart (other than to make me angry, but I’m not going there). For most of us, it’s the individuals in our lives who do more to shape our world view than the big names and celebrities.
My life was touched by a photographer in Toronto I have never met in person. I first saw photos of him and by him in various places online, and eventually was able to write to him via email. I didn’t really think he’d respond; I mean, why would someone of this much talent and obvious influence - of this calibre - be interested in corresponding with a stranger some 2,500 miles away? But he wrote back, and thus began a friendship I have cherished.
From my limited view, this is how I see him: he is a pragmatic man; a strong character who seems to be more interested in honesty and transparency than games and showmanship. He tells it like it is. He has a force about him, but he is not insensitive - in fact, he seems quite considerate and thoughtful. Caring. He is quick to validate and encourage. His thoughtfulness is clear in every note he sends, and every photo he takes. His work and his correspondence are imbued with his clear integrity and enormous heart. I have admired him physically and intellectually. He is nothing short of amazing.
He told me today that he is dying. I knew he had been battling cancer for some time - since before we had first emailed each other. He had had some major surgeries more recently that were devastating, but he rallied and fought back with an enormous sense of hope for the future. He even photographed himself to document - and cope with - this ruthless disease, and pursued his future with a patient passion that is difficult to fully comprehend. Then two weeks ago, his doctors informed him the cancer had finally made it into his brain. There is nothing they can do for him now. He doesn’t have long to live, and he has made peace with it.
I wasn’t home when I received the news, and didn’t want to cry on the gym floor. I had meetings to attend today, and have maintained my composure throughout. Now, as I wrap up my day, I am intensely sad, knowing that my friendship with him will likely be left in the virtual realm; I will not be able to translate it into an “in person” connection. I will miss his emails, too.
What makes it bearable is that his legacy will live on beyond his body. His creativity may be stopped, but his talent will live on forever in the works he has produced. Contact with him may end, but his influence will not. His gifts of honesty, strength, beauty, and perseverance will endure in the hearts of everyone he touched.
I am grateful to call this man my friend.