Today, I had news via email from a friend I haven’t seen in years that another friend I haven’t seen in even more years is dying. I didn’t know. Living in a different country…well, these things happen. Actually, he wasn’t as much a friend as he was something both more and other: a mentor and a distant guide. One of those people that watches over you from afar even when you’re not aware of it, encourages you, tells you when “done good.” One of those people that shapes your life without you’re knowing it at the time, giving you loving pats in the right direction. Then…all of a sudden shifting gears, treating you as an equal, even maybe asking your opinion or your advice. His name is Mike Hughes. He and a lovely man named Harry Jacobs creatively headed up the Martin Agency when I had my first job there, fresh out of college. I can’t imagine how many lives he’s shaped and encouraged along the way…
Now, he’s dying of lung cancer. A non-smoker, diagnosed in 1995. Stage IV since 2005.
I spent a good deal of my morning reading his blog, Unfinished Thinking. (I’m not promoting his blog. God knows, this is not a time for promotion, self- or otherwise. But I am sharing it, because it’s so incredibly worth sharing.) To say the least, it’s an emotional read. Beautiful. Poignant. Funny at times. Human through and through. Lovingly articulated. Full of thought, ideas. Not surprising. The man made a living writing and thinking. And now, he’s writing and thinking about his own impending death. Until then, though, his life is so incredibly rich. And it enriched mine, and yet again, today. I can’t help feeling cheated though, that I didn’t know him better. That I didn’t give him something back.
And all the while, I kept thinking: this internet—this Net—is so amazing. Wondrous. Sometimes I loath it. Avoid it. Think it’s stripping away our humanity. But on days like today, it felt like God almost. Keeping people together. Allowing them to share the deepest most significant feelings. Letting us say what must be said and hear what must be heard. Seeing that we’re not cut off and away, even when the distances are huge. Letting us witness.
Today, I was thankful for that and so many other things. For Mike, mostly. But also for being bound up in that great painful and awe-inspiring weaving that we’re all bound up in.