I knew this date was coming up. I’ve known it for weeks. This is part of the rhythm of my year. The memories of how it all unfolded are part of a subconscious liturgy that seems to unfold again in my mind each year as the Fall shifts to Winter.
December 17th. Three years have now passed by since our friend and partner Kelly Clark’s death.
I have been thinking of what I would write. Not writing – not acknowledging – doesn’t feel right. The loss of a loved one who had a profound impact on our lives calls out for acknowledgment on anniversaries of birth, death, and similar milestones.
In reflecting and gathering my thoughts, I began to look back at Kelly’s writings – his blog on spirituality, his Christmas stories, and the like. I’ve read them all before. And there is so much wisdom there. Review and reflection of those sources can certainly reveal new insights about the subjects and the Writer.
But, in looking through those writings, I found myself feeling frustrated. I wasn’t finding what I was looking for. And, in truth, I didn’t even know what I was looking for.
In this process, I was reminded of a vivid, recurrent dream I have had about Kelly since he passed:
In my dream, I am busily working away in my office when suddenly and unexpectedly, Kelly walks into the room – “out of the blue,” years after his funeral. In my dream, Kelly cheerfully and nonchalantly explains that he didn’t really die – that he just needed to take a break and get away from it all.
I then proceed to try to explain to Kelly all the things that have happened since he died – in my life, in our our law practice, in the world.
The funny thing is, in my dream, I am never mad at Kelly for disappearing for the last three years. Instead, I’m just really happy to see him again – to have the chance to spend time with him, to ask for his advice – to have him back.
Although the dream’s scenario isn’t realistic, my response is. Truth is, I wouldn’t be able to muster an ounce of anger if Kelly somehow showed up and his death was actually a mirage. I would just be really happy to see him.
Remembering that dream revealed to me that, while much can be found in memories, remembrances with friends, and Kelly’s writings – what was evading me in my search will never be found there – and that is Kelly himself.
Like Kelly’s story of “children waiting for snow,” when it comes to those we care deeply about, we hope for and anticipate the next time we will spend together, the new experiences, the reconnection. Kelly was a unique and positive force in my life – and I still find myself wanting something new and fresh from him.
I know that won’t happen in this life. Yes, our faith teaches that our loved ones live on and that someday the dream of being reunited will come to pass; I really hope so. But, one hard truth about death and loss is that this same hope and anticipation for reconnection during this life doesn’t go away; it just goes unfulfilled. And nothing we can do will change that.
I still miss Kelly, even more than I admit to myself most days. I miss his thoughtful perspective on the world; his kind and gentle manner; his commitment to giving others the benefit of the doubt, to searching for the good in others, and to doing good himself.
I am also profoundly grateful to Kelly – for the influence he had on my life, for giving me a chance, for opening a door to a vocation that gives my life meaning, and much more.
The world needs people like Kelly. I need people like Kelly. And I continue to be inspired and motivated by his example: that the best way to make sure the world has those kind of people, is to do our very best to be one.