This weekend, I am traveling to my home town to celebrate the life of a very dear friend. As his daughter and my good friend, Carole, said, “he just slipped through the back door when no one was looking.” It is fitting that David would choose to leave this world in the same unassuming, thoughtful, generous way he had lived in it.
Sometimes, we don’t fully appreciate what someone has added to our lives until they are no longer with us. Especially, it seems, when the people were adults in our lives when we were children. It seemed to me that David had always been in my life and would always be there. Literally, through all of the years of celebrations, heart aches, accomplishments, and
screw-ups rites of passage, David has been there seeing and believing the best of me.
He had a shy, self-effacing way of talking and gave the impression that he was just happy to be included in whatever was going on, but all that time, he was giving a generous gift. He made sure that other people had the spotlight, he listened, he remembered, and he made the people around him know that he cared by the way he attended to the conversation and held each person he engaged with. He talked to me about my interests and shared his interests and in all of our conversations, he made sure to communicate that he believed I was valuable, capable, athletic, smart, and a “good catch.” It was hard to take in that anyone thought these things about me, but knowing that David believed them made me brave. His quiet, steady, kind presence shaped me, and many of my friends.
This poem hung in the hallway of David and Jean’s house, where so much of my growing up took place. It clearly spoke of David and Jean’s home and seemed to explain why it felt so good to be there. I read it many, many times over the years. To me, these were revolutionary thoughts about parenting and loving people. These new ideas embedded themselves in my brain and are there in my consciousness today as I parent my children and learn to love people better. Knowing how much these words meant to me, David drew them in calligraphy, framed the whole thing, and gave it to me as a gift.
By Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese writer, painter and sculpter born in 1883.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Gibran says we cannot hold onto what we love. That idea seems fitting of letting David go as well. He is on to the next thing now. He dwells in the house of tomorrow. It must be a very, very good place, made even better now that David is there.