Before he said hello, I blurted out, "Do you have any coffee over there?”
This was our code for – I need to talk, can I come over?
I drove the 6 blocks to his office. He was sitting at his desk, happily surrounded by pictures of his fishing adventures.
These coffee conversations began with the same ritual. First, he would show me the photo of his most recent “biggest catch.” The fish always looked huge in the photo. Once he told me how he had mastered the perfect angle and focus of his camera to make it look larger than life. I oooh and aahed and called him the mighty fisherman.
Next came the pouring of the coffee. It was thick, strong, and served in a cup from his mismatched office collection. No cream. No sugar. No asking if it was too strong.
It was the expectation that it was to be enjoyed - as is.
Finally, with the ritual complete, he would sit back with his cup, his hair framing his face, and with a familiar silence stare at me.
His eyes locking on mine without words said,
--What do you need to talk about it?
This was a scene we played out many times. The problem of the day was hashed out with laughter, at times tears, but consistently with his calm and clarifying wisdom. I walked away feeling stronger, smarter, and grateful for having him in my life. His name was Dan.
One day during a work meeting, Dan was exceptionally quiet. Not his quipping, sharp-witted, entertaining self. While chatting during the morning break, Dan mentioned that he had a headache that wouldn’t go away.
Soon the black moleskin calendar that he carried in his chest pocket, once filled with meetings, appointments, and deadlines, began to mean very little. Painfully I watched my mentor, colleague, coffee mate, father, brother, teacher, friend slow down with the ending of life.
I would call his wife to arrange a visit and drive to his home to talk. Our talks were shorter now with fewer words. No fish photos, no oohing, no aahing, no ritual.
One sunny day we walked slowly to his front yard patio. Silently we sat with the sun on our faces, listening to the birds and looking at the sky. His wife brought us coffee. Like Dan, the coffee was thinner, weaker, and held in a smaller container than I was used to.
Breaking the silence, he said, “Are you happy?"
Before I could respond his weakened voice followed, “You need to go fishing!”
I started chattering about how, yes, I was happy and all was going well with me. I told him I wish I could slow down and enjoy the sun more like I was doing with him right now.
He said, "Oh, I don't know if you need to slow down like me, but I want you to relax. I want you to have fun.” And adamantly ended with, “I want you to go fishing!"
Again, I began talking about how I had fished as a little girl and had taken my kids fishing when they were young, but really didn’t think it was something I would do now. His piercing eyes stopped my chatter.
I have learned life lessons in many ways; through experience, through suffering, through joy, but this time it was sitting on a patio with the sun on my face through the locking of eyes.
Silently his determined eyes told me
Wake up! This isn’t about baiting a hook or holding a fishing pole. This is about finding what you love...coming alive with joy…. Being happy… this is about Living!
The stare-down continued until the communication of the moment was solidified. He knew. I knew. I got it! I understood. He loved fishing. Fishing was his worship; the river was the sanctuary for his soul. Fishing was where he found joy, peace, and contentment. That is what he wanted for me.
I never forgot the lesson. And the amazing part is…. I found it!
When I write, when I speak and look in the eyes of someone touched by my words, and when I help people, I am fishing. I feel it! I feel the contentment. I feel the peace. I feel the joy. I have found what I love to do… and I am doing it!
Yes, Dan, I am fishing!
Pennie’s Life Lesson:
"Find the river in life that brings you joy, peace, and contentment.
Swim in it, splash in it, and fish in it!”
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There is a certain magic about where I live both physically and spiritually – on the crossroads of Spirit and Brave.
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