Yesterday marked another tragic loss as New Hampshire said goodbye to an icon in the land use planning community. A man that mentored so many of my friends and left behind a legacy of sound planning and community building that we, as planners, have nothing to do but succeed by following in his footsteps. And as the news spread across our inboxes and cell phone screens, there were feelings of utter shock and disbelieve. My dear friend and colleague, a long time partner and protégé of this man, would not, could not accept the news until he heard from the family, half serious in speculation over how fast the news was spreading without confirmation, half knowing that this was news he could not accept.

And it often is this way, when someone passes and yet you can’t really grasp that they are gone. A day or week goes by and you see something comical that you just have to share with them and you pick up the phone, and stop. Who exactly are you calling? They are not with us anymore. You set down the phone and feel an overwhelming swell of grief come back into your heart as if you’ve lost them all over again. I know my mother and I both struggle with this time of transition where we know my father has passed yet still reach out or expect to see him only to be reminded of his passing. Just this weekend when I so desperately needed my father’s advice on business matters, I cursed my cell phone for not having “Mom and Dad” listed under contacts. There, in that list, my Mom’s name stood alone.

Four years ago, Sean and I had lost Stoli and Banshee, one just before Thanksgiving and the other just before Christmas. I can remember sitting in my backyard, bundled up yet not caring if the cold winter wind scoured my face. I needed to feel something other than numb from their passing. And then I noticed that there were no tracks in the snow. No paw prints, no holes dug looking for bones that were hiding deep in the layers of frost and ice. I almost walked gently on my tiptoes through the yard just to leave imitation tracks in the snow as I could not stand the bareness, the untouched glistening ground.

These times when those we have lost are still so very present in our lives that we have forgotten they have moved on can be excruciating, yet how beautiful that they touched our lives so much that we feel their presence and look for them even after they are gone. To all of my friends who are in this transitional phase, allow yourself to continue to feel their presence as you take whatever time you need to accept what has happened. Their spirits are very much alive in each one of us.

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