Dispatches From Mayne Island: Lessons on Life, Death and Leadership

The Japanese Memorial Garden, Mayne Island. Photograph by Charles van Heck.

Mayne Island, life and death blend naturally together. Death feels different here than in the urban and suburban environments. Life and death are not engaged in a struggle. They embrace as the body of lovers merging into one body. This is the natural blending of life, life’s vitality and beauty, and is nourishment for the soul when we allow ourselves to be open to the harmony of the natural process. In our times, we attempt to hide death, block and tuck it away from our vision. It is a fallacy to think we can. Death is an ever present reality. Yet we are confronted by a choice.

Dad: I Love You

The summer of 1992, a proud, loving grandfather with his then six-month-old grandson and I.

In my early memories of my father, he softly appears in partial recollections of places and activities but I can’t see his face. My father, Joseph, passed away seven weeks ago and would have turned 94-years-old this week.

The Suppression of Male Tears


I was 13 years old. As one of the pallbearers, I stood at the end of the line, watching the casket sliding from the hearse. Suddenly, I felt weak. Grief rushed through me in a way I hadn’t known before. I turned away, just at the time when I should have been reaching up. My uncle turned and screamed something nasty at me. What exactly, I don’t remember. Only that “do your job” was tagged to the end of it. I didn’t forgive him for years for that, even though it was mostly a reaction out of fear that the casket would fall.

Visiting a Dying Friend

Friendship by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis

During the visit, it was clear that Brian was fading. He tried to talk to us, but really couldn’t muster the strength to say anything coherently. I remember looking into his eyes, and saying “I miss our talks” and I’m almost sure he tried to say to me “Maybe we’ll have another.”

We never got another chance. He died Thursday.