When Things End

One of my colleagues died this past weekend.

The news spread fast through the ranks of entrepreneurs who knew Corey Rudl and relied on him for advice, expertise and information. The man was very, very good at what he did.

My friend Phil Alexander left a message on my phone shortly after it happened. A shock.

I say he was a colleague, because we were in the same business, and had many, many common friends. But I never actually met Corey. Twice, I spoke at seminars where I had to leave early, and missed him by an hour each time. (By all reports, he electrified the room, while I had merely titilated it.)

He was someone I expected to meet, however, and do projects with. It was only a matter of time, as they say, until we would have gotten together, so I never sweated the missed connections. I was sure our paths would cross, somewhere. Soon.

Such are the cruel reminders God delivers.

Sometimes, there just isn’t a “next time” in the program.

I’m sure the grief is still raw for his friends and family. Time is disjointed, the absence surreal. I’m not going to say much here.

But familiar feelings were immediately stirred up by Phil’s phone call.

Grief and I are old friends. When I was seventeen, I was in an off-road accident up in the foothills above my high school. Two of us walked away, but the driver was strapped in and tumbled 600 feet down into a gulley. He never regained consciousness.

I had my first taste of true horror, and luck — the Jeep rolled over me as we flipped, with enough pressure to splinter my glasses, but not quite enough to crush my head.

Things ended for the boy who died. He would never get older, never finish high school, never hang with us again. Things ended for his friends, too — he would never be there again, except perhaps in uneasy dreams.

We all learn early that things change, and even when those changes are tough, we muddle through.

But when things end… really end… there’s something more than just change occurring.

A door closes that can never be opened again. And you can never truly understand that emtpy feeling until you experience it.

After you do experience it, you’re a slightly different person.

For me, that fatal accident sent me off on a tangent in life. I became both more mature (or at least less of a child) and yet not quite fit to lead my own affairs… because that absence stayed with me for a very long time.

I made different decisions, at almsot every point, than I would have before brushing up so close to death.

I’ve buried many, many more friends and family since then. It never gets easy, but the absence isn’t so much of a shock anymore. It’s just there.

My sense of time, however, has never recovered. I still slip up, and fall back into the habit of treating time as if there was plenty of it, as if this mortal coil were a movie with replay, or a game with reset.

And it isn’t. Time may or may not be linear, but what we possess of it is fragile and limited. And precious.

That’s what has stuck with me all these years. It’s a realization that keeps you just a bit off-balance, all the time. Even when you forget for a while.

Kiss your loved ones tonight, and maybe take a little time off this week to reflect on things. People are in mourning. You may not know them, but their grief is something we all share sooner or later.

I am very, very sorry for Corey Rudl’s family, and I hope they find a measure of inner peace soon. He touched a lot of people’s lives, and his death is a godamned shame.

Be well.

John Carlton

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  • Timothy Warnock says:


    I am commenting out of touched solidarity, more than anything important to say.

    Though I didn’t personally know Corey, the news of his death stunned me… he was SO alive and kicking. He was young. It really was a surreal step into the twilight zone, and a harsh, icey splash from life’s “wake-up” bucket.

    The human tragedy focused it’s searing laser of permanent separation on Corey’s family and loved ones, like it does to millions of people throughout the world everyday. And no matter if we are 17, 34, or 68, when it strikes, it comes too soon to those who love.

    Love doesn’t jibe well with brusk, one-way deportations… no crime, no trial, no appeal. Just pain and the desperate prayer that somehow the love left behind really is indestructable, inseparable, and infinite.

    I believe it is, otherwise it would “die” with the beloved… but it doesn’t.

    Love continues to live, perhaps even stronger than before, as I imagine Corey is shining now.

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