What Carl taught me

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I just found out my dear friend Carl passed away only a month after discovering he had stomach cancer that had metasticized to his liver and lymphs. Carl radiated kindness, compassion and a deep caring whenever you were with him. Despite having been given several months to live, I went to visit him right before I went into my own surgery because I felt like he may not be here when I got out of the hospital.

He once told me that I was his hero for how I faced all that I’ve gone through. Sitting with him, I expressed how special he was to me and all of those around him. He looked at me, his body and mind totally failing, and managed to say my name with a tenderness I’ve never experienced. He smiled and held my hand and in that moment became my hero. 

Later, I reflected on how he spent 70 years of his life searching for spiritual community, and for the last two years of his life (which is when I met him) finally felt like he was able to blossom. This extensive, life-long search, is a magnificent testament to the soul’s desire to be connected to more. His warmth, in that moment, confirmed so much of what I believe and feel like I don’t express enough to those I love and the world I live in.

Don’t spend your time on people or in environments that do not recognize and celebrate your mutual, innate nobility.

Cultivate a life filled with experiences and relationships that embrace and enhance your deeper self.

Do not settle or take lightly your own development as a human being. Engage it, when necessary confront it and above all else, challenge yourself to reach for more.

Do not hide from the challenges you face or get lost in your suffering, for inside them lie the opportunity to learn, grow and transform.

Lying in a bed knowing that this life is coming to an end, every worry you ever had amounts to exactly nothing — only the love you shared and the people with which you shared it, no matter how small the encounter, matters.

Be sweet to those you come across because you never know how you will touch their lives.

Six years ago I was in that same bed, not knowing if I would wake up the next morning, and have been blessed to greet each morning since. As I fell asleep that night, I decided that if I were to wake up the next day I wanted all of the gifts that could come from going through my illness. I have been on a pursuit to discover those gifts (and share them to the extent possible) every day since.

If it were not for that moment of complete uncertainty for my own life, I would have never met Carl and experienced his radiant soul. Today, lying in a hospital bed after my 18th procedure in 6 years, I remain filled with hope, gratitude and an overwhelming sense of love for everything about this life.

“Anybody can be happy in the state of comfort, ease, health, success, pleasure and joy; but if one will be happy and contented in the time of trouble, hardship and prevailing disease, it is the proof of nobility.” — ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Update February 2nd

I am so thankful that I was out of the hospital and mustered the strength to make it to Carl's funeral where we were treated to a glorious view of the Monterey Bay, fellowship and a beautiful Baha'i service followed by a Hopi lullaby.

I learned so much more from the ripples of Carl in my life today. We are all such a huge gift to the universe–you'll never know just how much, but many will feel the emptiness you leave. As we drove around, I noticed a Carl sized hole where he may have ridden past me on his bicycle or greeted me with a warm smile at the market. I also thought of how many more people he touched daily that would not even know what happened.

I wonder if all of this technology is really just a tool for what Bhuddists describe as the Boddhistattva path, a way of scaling our individual reach toward the liberation off all beings. It is easy to see technology from an opposing view–there are so many counter examples–but there are Baha'i writings discussing how all technology and human advancements are made to ultimately further the goal of unity.

It is hard not to have faith in this long view of advancement–were it not for the Internet, Carl would have never found his community and I, him. And now you to me, and by proxy, a glimpse of Carl. My ultimate aim in writing about him in the first place was to magnify just how many people were thinking of him as he transitioned, which is now in the hundreds, maybe thousands.

"Who can measure the heights to which human intelligence, liberated from its shackles, will soar?" - Shoghi Effendi

This quote will inspire all that I aspire to–the legacy from knowing Carl and the depths I allowed him to open in me, I may previously have avoided.


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