Saturday, February 14, 2009

One of those reminders

I learned today that one of the participants in the Mumbai-Goa fundraising bike ride on which I went a few weeks ago died shortly after his return home. He was only 44 years old and leaves behind a wife and a young son. (I do not include his name or picture here out of an abundance of caution with respect to privacy for his family.)

What a feeling of sadness this brings. Even in just a few short days, you can learn enough about someone to know that he was a very fine, gentle man with a big heart and a generous soul. Even now, I can remember his warm greetings before we set out each morning and then at the conclusion of each day's ride.

A ride like ours -- 330 miles over six intense days -- creates a kind of cocoon environment. Unexpectedly strong relationships emerge, friendships totally out of proportion to the actual amount of time spent together. You start by sharing a purpose and a cause, but it rapidly becomes a joint experience -- the discomfort of being in a strange place, the wonder of amazing scenery, the near misses of aggressive bus and truck drivers, many shared delicious meals and a few less appetizing ones, passing the warm water bucket for the end-of-day showers, caring for the ill and injured, and inside jokes -- and you evolve into a close-knit community, a team of people ready to jointly conquer the next hill.

As I have said about a totally different setting, "It is an elemental statement about the human condition: We are born to work and play together in teams, but we have to give enough of ourselves to let the filaments connect." This young man gave himself wholeheartedly to all of us, and I am grateful to have had the chance to know him.


Unknown said...

This is truly a shock,May mawla bless his soul in eternal peace and give family the strength

Anonymous said...

I'm so shocked. I remember my first chat with him on day 1 while we were riding alongside until my bike broke down and he was talking about Orlando and his family. Such a nice person.

The Reverend of Rock and Roll said...

This is such a sad, but uplifting story... I suppose that may seem terrible, but I find it true.

Sad because this man is dead, but uplifting because of how much he gave to the world around him, even to those he knew for only six days.

I wrote my master's thesis on The Theology of Community, and I have to say that you are absolutely correct when you state that community is elemental.

This morning, I was speaking to my cousin when she suddenly said, "I have to go to a funeral."

I asked her why, and she said that she had a friend who had passed suddenly. A 26 year old woman who went to the Doctor for a virus. He gave her antibiotics and sent her home where she developed some sort of infection overnight and died in her sleep.

When I think of how easily this same thing could happen to someone I care about or even myself, it gives me pause.

Even more reason to live in community with one another...

e-Patient Dave said...

A beautiful bit of writing, Paul. You took this painful moment and created an expression of what it is to be human.

Thanks for the reminder that "we have to give enough of ourselves to let the filaments connect." I've never heard it said that way.

Anonymous said...

I knew him from the bike trip and I clearly remember on the second day, he passed me while going up a steep hill, but not before he rode beside me for awhile with words of encouragement and advice. I remember feeling touched that somebody who didn't know me a day ago would take the time, while riding up a hill, to slow down to cheer me on.

Clearly, there were many moments like this that he created for many of us on the trip. It is a testament to how kind and generous a person he was and he will be missed.