I lost a dear friend this week. Barry, loving husband and father of two amazing boys, was only 42. He was smart, affable, and well-read, and he gave me one of the most valuable gifts one person can give to another: the freedom to be vulnerable.
I met Barry when I moved to a new job. For a year, I worked to get to know Barry a little, as with everyone in our department of 65. One day it suddenly clicked–we discovered a shared taste in books. That common interest accelerated our friendship, but we were still only casual colleagues. Shortly after that discovery, Barry made another: he had stage IV brain cancer. He went on leave for the first of many surgeries, in an effort to aggressively fight this monster. While he was at home recovering, I was quietly finishing a 3-year journey to publish a book on the nature of heaven. Very few people were aware of this effort–it was a deeply personal journey. As I completed the draft, I began thinking about sharing my work with trusted others to get their feedback. It was a terrifying proposition, but I knew the day was coming that I would have to get comfortable sharing it.
One day while thinking about Barry and his recovery, I was struck with a thought: should I ask him to review it? He was a nice guy, and we shared an interest in books, but making this substantial request on such a personal subject of a casual colleague fighting his own significant battle felt over the line. I did nothing for two weeks, but couldn’t shake the idea. I finally mustered the courage and sent him an email at home. My answer came a few days later.
Barry graciously agreed to review my draft and give me feedback, but he wanted me to know one thing: he was agnostic. We had our pact. Barry took his time, and when he returned to the office weeks later, we sat down one afternoon in comfy chairs in the atrium while he shared his suggestions for my manuscript. I was in awe. Barry was thorough and thoughtful in his feedback. With his wife Anna’s input, he had put in a lot of thought and effort for someone not much more than a stranger. And his edits were awesome–I made changes on 90% of his suggestions. He made my book significantly better.
I’ve always been a private person; it generally takes time for me to open up. Writing a book on a deeply personal topic and then sharing it with others took me well outside my comfort zone. Barry gave me a safe place to take my first small baby steps on that terrifying journey. He was candid but kind. And in doing so, he gave me a meaningful life lesson–that when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with others, wonderful things generally happen. I am more open and my life is richer today because of people like Barry who have shown me kindness and caring. Barry, you made an impact on this once-stranger, and you will be deeply missed.