It’s hard to know where my friend Peter was coming from. I knew where I was, right in the middle of the maelstrom of my husband’s cancer. I was storm-tossed and hell-bent on doing whatever it took to keep him going. I won’t say “to keep him alive,” because we didn’t have that luxury. But I had to call it something. Otherwise, why get up in the morning?
Peter also knew that his life had a cap on it. But it didn’t seem to bother him. The vibe he generated via email was pure peace. There was also a hearty dose of laughter. Since I never knew him before his accident, I had nothing to compare him against. I knew from the get-go that he was secretive. I wasn’t sure why, but there it was. No last name, no address. But he was happy to send me a few photos, saying that he was “a handsome man, a manly man.” I could feel the twinkle in his eye as he painstakingly typed those words.
He shared with me that his wife was taking flying lessons and that made him happy. Perhaps he felt that she, like the robins, needed something to bear her aloft into freedom. And it gave him comfort, I am sure, to see her take time for herself. She had a job but I don’t know what it was. That left him alone a good part of the time. This was spent outdoors when at all possible. We can picture him talking to “the cat pack” as he adventured around his yard.
One thing was clear. He was brilliant. You just knew it by the simplicity of his words. It takes a good mind to transcend itself. And he pulled it off. He managed to nail the essence of life by living it.
He had no patience for doctors or spiritual teachers, on the whole. He felt that when you were facing death, a discussion about advaita was worth than useless. I agreed, since I was facing the monster of approaching death myself. Bob, pale as a ghost, stood silently by while I pounded words into essays and posted them on our website. I was learning that if I had nothing else, I had words. Words that hit people in the gut and bypassed the brain. Words that made them cry. But often they angered people that wanted their spirituality served sunny-side up. For me, that was impossible.
I had been handed a pair of hands that served as pruning shears for the uselessness of false optimism. I hope that the growth coming from the old stems would prove greener than green. I had nothing else. And Peter understood me. He held my hand and spoke of his delight in each day he survived. He was in pain but not in denial. In dire straits financially but not downtrodden. He was, quite simply, a man of God.