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Life, Death and Relationships

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

In our busy lives, filled with work and family, we learn to take many things for granted. One of these is that nothing will change, not our friends, families and jobs. However, every now and then, something happens to shake us out of our denial and into stark awareness that things can happen very suddenly. Then, we are reminded of how fragile life is and how nothing stays the same.

During the last five or six years, we have moved around the country quite a lot. My wife and I spend most of our lives living in New York. We have friends that reach back many years and we also made new friends.

I came to know Keith and his family fairly recently, if you consider six or seven years as recent. He was never a close friend of mine, but, this was not a casual relationship either. Our families joined together on more than one occasion, usually to have dinner at a local restaurant. We visited one another’s homes. We got to know each other’s children. He and his wife also attended my 65th birthday party, which was quite an affair.

Keith had an unquenchable thirst for literature and travel. We often discussed books, as well as the places we had each visited. He stimulated my interest in several authors who I otherwise might have let slip by my awareness.

Then, we moved away and made the usual promises about staying in touch. However, the years slipped by and we lost contact. I often thought of him and felt comforted by the fact that he was there, back east, in New York, happy and healthy.

This is why I was shocked and saddened to learn of his death. He had developed a malignant and rapidly spreading type of skin cancer. Because we had lost touch, we learned of his death after the fact in a circuitous way.

Keith was a sweet, gentle and sensitive man. He was a doctor who worked with very sick children. He brought warmth and compassion to everyone he met. Lest the reader be mislead, Keith was also a strong and determined man. His three children are all successful even though one of them struggled with learning difficulties. He was a good father and husband, who knew how to balance a very demanding medical career with dedication to his family and wife.

You might think this article is a eulogy and, perhaps it is. However, I want to convey another message, it’s  important to maintain all of our relationships and not assume people will always be there. I am not implying that we should be morbid. Quite to the contrary, rather it’s that we live our lives to the fullest. Part of this has to do with nurturing our connections to other people, be they friend or family.

I miss Keith but I feel enriched by having known him. Like John Donne said, “No man is an island and the death of each diminishes our lives.” This is a rough quote so, please, do not hold me to the exact words. The message is to value life and relationships. People are important. That includes you, me and everyone. Embrace life!

Your comments are strongly encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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