Sansaku: The Obituary

from a series of posts by Colin on Best Slowly. Each posting is a walk, a sansaku, about 500 words long


Last night, Chyako and I sat down with Wendell’s family and we went to work on the obituary.   I’m not a relative and feel like I trespassed.   But that’s not what’s bothering me.

I’m used to giving very personal feedback and I can easily go too far.   I will say things others won’t.

It’s not that I said anything I’m ashamed of or shouldn’t have, I just said so much.   I knew Wendell well and wasn’t inhibited. And I think I might have overwhelmed them.

Therapists learn early in their career, that people will often disclose stories and feelings, fears and fantasies, and dark secrets they have never talked about.   Wendell knew how to use therapy, and we had the advantage of that and being long-time friends.

He could hold complex and often contradictory feelings about others and himself.   He wasn’t afraid to share and since he kept a journal, he understood the value of process and reflection.

If Wendell’s wife and youngest son are both artists, so was he.   His stage was different.   He practiced performance art as a teacher, at parties, and on the golf course, which is where I spent so much time with him.

It was verbal, relational, and spontaneous.   He had a mouth, but could also walk his talk. A friend who stopped by last night called him Mr. Personality.

Golf can be a zen game, and he was a master – at least at our small town course.   Everyone who ever played with him knew this.

I’ve mentioned he often improved his lie or took a putt, but it wasn’t about the score.   He could shoot his age for ten years or more, starting when he was in his late sixties.

And I also mentioned, how golf undresses a man.   He had the eyes to see, and I was privileged to listen to the commentary.   And I was not immune.   While he had a great short game, I did not. “Colin, that was a great putt until you hit it.”

Even after I stopped playing golf, I would still walk the course with him.   He was approaching eighty and not the golfer he had once been.   He didn’t like being an old duffer, although we always called him the geezer.

I’ll be curious what Mark finally writes in the obituary. He was the one taking notes, and I was the one mostly blabbing.   You’d think I’d be used to it by now.

Wendell would have had a lot to say about it.   He was like that, too.


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