2.13.2012

Walter Has Passed Away

Remember a few weeks ago (and before that, a few years ago) when I wrote about Walter and his cat,  and how the photo of them together reminded me of the most powerful expression of joy I've ever witnessed, and how we could all take a lesson from Walter and truly cherish what brings us joy?



I found out from Keldemean, the person who posted the original photo, that Walter has passed away. He apparently collapsed while washing dishes at the shelter he worked at.

When Keldemean emailed me and told me, I was sad. I don't know Keldemean. The only conversation that I've had with her was via email, when she saw my post about Walter (whom I've also never met) and thanked me for understanding him, and subsequently understanding why she posted the picture. And yet, I mourn the loss of Walter. Outside of anything one could say about him from knowing him, all I needed to know about him is in that picture: he loved his cat. He had an unabashed joy about their relationship. He passed around photos of him with his cat. He worked at a shelter.

Walter was a point of light amongst all the darkness surrounding us, simply by being Walter. He brought me joy the day I saw his photo. He's brought thousands of other people joy from reading my post and Keldemean's original post of him. And he's no longer here. And I am sad for that fact.

I actually shocked myself when tears welled in my eyes while reading the email. I thanked Keldemean for letting me know, and further, for making our very brief intersection on this road of life such a positive one. We've now exchanged exactly three emails in our history. This is the extent to which I know the person I only know as Keldemean. And yet, she is responsible for bringing a joy to me and my readers, by introducing us to Walter.

And for that, I thank them both. For me, Walter stands as an avatar of all that is right in this world. And that won't die; not for as long as I'm able to hold the image of his joy over being with his cat in my mind. And when I do, it reminds me of all the other memories I have where there's been joy, no matter how small. And thoughts of joy beget other thoughts of joy.

We can all use more joy in our life, no matter how much we already have.

I have no idea if you feel even a little of what I felt when you just read that he passed. I'm sure you probably don't; I'm a pretty odd duck and mourning people I've never met because of what they represent to and for me is probably a really individual behavior. But if you do, thank you. You get it. You understand. And I hope that you will do what you can to fill the void that Walter leaves by feeling as much joy as you possibly can, every moment you experience it.

Be present for it. Be aware of it. Soak it in. Don't just let it pass. Don't let time idle by. Bask in the glow of the warm sun on clear breezy days. Squeeze the hand that holds yours a little extra tightly. Hold a hug longer than you think you should, because it feels good. Smile. Absorb other peoples' smiles. Or, go get a wallet-sized photo of you with your cat to hand other people, because you love it and you love that it loves you.