Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grief and gratitude

A praise song.

My mentor of the last 20 years or so died last week. It's taken me to today to be able to write this. It's taken me to today to be able to write much of anything, the words were pretty much knocked out of me. But in the last week I have learned so much about love, grief and gratitude. I am so grateful. I am so grateful.

I've written about Brother Blue before. He was an extraordinary man. Born in Cleveland in the 1920s, he went on to serve as an officer in WWII (no small feat for a black man in the 1940s), then attended the most elite educational institutions in the US. By the mid-1970s he was telling stories on the streets, in prisons, to the homeless, pretty much everywhere. And he was listening, spreading the gospel that everyone has a story to tell, that listening to one another can change the world.

He was right. He has changed a multitude of worlds by telling his stories and listening to others' stories in turn. We all contain worlds within us, we each are our own little world, and Brother Blue changed just about everyone he met. He was kind and compassionate like no one else I have ever met. He accepted people. He had an unrivaled depth of curiosity that would lead him to ask questions and listen and listen and praise and listen.

I am who I am because of Brother Blue.

While I might have told stories anyway, I became a storyteller because of him; I've tried riskier, scarier stories because I knew Brother Blue would be there, listening, telling me, "That's good, that's good." I try to be kind in part because I saw his kindness over and over again. My belief that listening and compassion are the hallmarks of my path through the world undoubtedly was shaped by him.

The last time I saw Brother Blue I kissed him on the cheek and told him that I love him. He patted my cheek and said, "Alright, baby. I love you too." And really, in the end, that's the best any of us can hope for, that our loved ones know how we feel and we know they love us. I am lucky.

I am immensely grateful for Brother Blue's presence in my life, his presence in the world, for all the lives I know he has touched and the thousands more I will never know about. While the world may seem smaller without him, I know my world is infinitely bigger for his presence in it.

Thank you. I love you forever and ever and ever.

(c) 2009 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. I know that it can be hard to put into words the impact that a mentor and friend has had on you. And more so, so soon after he's gone. Thank you for sharing with us a hint of what this relationship meant, and still means, to you.

  2. Ahhh Laura,
    I have prayed for you 1000 times over in the past days! I will continue to do so. He was a great spirit! And EE once told me "Science has proven that energy can never be created or destroyed" so the vibrant energy that was no IS Blue lives on forever and ever and ever!

  3. Beautiful! Isn't it wonderful to have people like him in our world? Mentors who can really challenge us to put forth our best. I am sorry for your loss.


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