13001291_10209035659546903_1145006106648902119_nThis past Sunday brought the very sad news of a friend’s sudden death. Randy Hernandez was a spirited, generous and kind soul. A talented musician and dedicated surfer, he seemed to know everyone in my adopted North Beach neighborhood, and possessed a laid-back charm and joy for life that he carried everywhere. He was 39 years old. I have never heard a negative word said about Randy, and a lot of people in San Francisco (and Hawaii, and elsewhere I’m sure) are heavy of heart this week. A mutual friend commented that the best people are always taken from us early, and too often, it’s true. My heart is with Randy’s family in Hawaii.

As my closest friends know, I’ve lost a lot of people that I care about in the past few years. My mother, my father and my sister Lisa are all, sadly, gone; my lovely sister would have been just  53 years old on Friday. The pain and difficulty of dealing with these losses is constant. I’m not from San Francisco originally, and few of my friends in the city ever had the chance to meet my family. As a result, I don’t get many opportunities to talk about my memories of my parents and sister. Outwardly, I continue to operate normally, but the grief is always present, always running in the background of whatever I do. Simply put, I’m not the same.

I’m in no way unique. I’ve just seen a lot in the past few years, perhaps more than my share. But all of us go through this process – all of us. No one gets out unscathed. It seems to me that the main difference between young people and those who are older isn’t the passage of years at all: what ages us most is the loss of the ones we love. This is why you can meet 20-year-olds with the same gravitas as a person in their forties or fifties – they have seen too much loss in too brief a time.

It’s important to remember that nearly everyone we talk to each day is, at some level, processing loss. Loss is one thing that unites us as human beings: we are all mortal, impermanent creatures. When we love, we invest ourselves in others who are, like ourselves, only here for a certain number of years. We all live our lives with the knowledge that we must say goodbye to our loved ones, someday. 

As tragic as this reality undeniably is, it’s one we probably shouldn’t bury in the backs of our minds. Ask yourself: How many friends do you have whom you haven’t spoken to in months? Years? I know in my case, the list is far too long. Here’s another question: how many friendships have you thrown overboard for insignificant reasons? Maybe an argument, or a misunderstanding that was never quite resolved. I’m guilty of this. The truth is, when I’m fully mindful of the short, bumpy path we are given in this life, my small-mindedness makes me ashamed. And I miss my old friends.

We are all human beings. We all make mistakes. Lots of them. But we are all in this together. And despite all the distractions, our friends and family are truly all we have in this life. These people that we love and take for granted, that we pine for and complain about: in a life all too centered on the superficial and material, these  are the people that give our lives texture and dimension.

And Today is the only day we are ever given to enjoy them.

To all of my friends and loved ones, past and present, thank you for showing up along my path. As for those I’ve somehow left behind – don’t be surprised to see me soon.