Friday, July 12, 2013

In The Blink of an Eye

My friend Victor Leonard was killed while out walking his dog early Wednesday night.  Murdered, really; by a repeat DUI offender who was once again, driving under the influence. 

I still haven't got my head entirely around this latest dose of reality cramps, it's too soon, still have that kicked in the head by a mule sensation of numbness and stunned disbelief.

We hadn't known each other long, less than a year really~ but although I didn't know him for years it felt that way, it was that kind of a connection; we share the same birthday, just on different years.  We also shared common interest in most of the subjects I write about, which was as a gift from the universe for me.

A couple of months back Victor adopted a lovable & intelligent pit bull from a rescue shelter, and named him Argus.  They were inseparable, Argus even riding along on the back of Vic's Harley in a carrier as many times as not.  Victor was a man of complex simplicity.  He taught Yoga, practiced Kung Fu,  and I always sensed a spiritual warrior within him, a kind of Zen-like calm peacefulness and inner tranquility.  He was a botanical wizard, music lover, and father.  He was also a prospect member of a local fellowship of motorcycle enthusiasts; The Brotherhood of Old Bikers (BOOBs) whose runs & functions benefit the North Bay Cancer Alliance.

All last night I kept trying to distract myself with one thing or another just to get my mind off things ... yet each time a distraction ended, or failed outright, my mind jumps back to Victor is dead and the grief begins all over again with the same impact as hearing the news for the first time.  It's so hard, knowing that I will never see my friend again, on this side of the veil.  I feel guilty because just last week I was going to call Vic to see if he and Argus wanted to stop by & visit; then something distracted me, and I forgot to call him, now it's too late.

We go about our lives pretending that tragedy will always choose to land on perfect strangers, never wanting to believe that it will strike us, even though we know better.  When you hear the news that a friend has died, the whole of reality looses focus as your brain struggles against the new reality, and your heart goes a little numb.  The world of two minutes ago disappears brutally in a cosmic slap across the face, anchoring you in the harsh new landscape of what is.

Driving impaired, on a suspended license, 33 year old Andrew Tungseth careened down Todd road early Wednesday evening in his Toyota Tacoma truck.  He drove up onto the right hand shoulder, and ran down Victor and Argus from behind before they ever had a chance...both died at the scene, as Tungseth plowed into two parked cars and sustained minor injuries in the crash.  Police detected signs of intoxication on the man, and arrested him for felony DUI manslaughter, & driving while suspended.  In his truck they found prescription narcotics, drug paraphernalia and marijuana.  Subsequent investigation revealed that Tungseth's license had been suspended for TWO prior DUI's   


They say there are five stages of grief, and just now I'm trying hard not to feed the wisp of anger I am feeling inside.  Doesn't it always seem to happen this way, some addict or alcoholic who believes he/she is above the law just continues to drive intoxicated on a suspended license; until they finally kill someoneWhere is the enforcement of our laws against DUI?  Why is someone with a DUI suspension even allowed to own a vehicle?  Why do we wait until they kill someone to remove them from the equation in the name of public safety?  I cannot help but feel that if the law had done its job properly in the first place, Victor & Argus would still be with us today, instead of cut down in their prime of life by a selfish, irresponsible drug addict. 

I think I know what Victor would say if I could hear him right now: He would help me find that place of acceptance within, and make that the first stage of grief instead of the last.  He would find some Zen way of telling me that it was all OK, that the universe is just unfolding as it should.  Victor would remind me of that which I know so well...that we all come here with a handful of spiritual "contracts," agreements we have with other souls enabling all concerned to balance karma, or whatever.  He would say that he and this Tungseth fellow had an appointment out on Todd road that neither was consciously aware of. 

I feel so cheated, to lose a friend just like that, in the blink of an warning; here one minute, gone the next.  No more more heady conversations, no more wry observations on life and the art of motorcycle maintenance.  Can't help but feel the universe is testing me, seeing if I walk my talk about unconditional love, intent and forgiveness...or if I revert back to basic human conditioning of hating the man who murdered my friend, and wanting to see him punished.  Some may disagree with my calling this a murder, but what else would you call it when Andy Tungseth knew it was illegal for him to drive stoned on a prior DUI suspended license, but did it anyway?  He knew there was the possibility of killing someone while driving intoxicated, but he just didn't care.  He just didn't care, which in my book equals intent.  Murder by arrogance.  The 'authorities' who allowed this to happen with our revolving door injustice system are equally culpable in Victor's death.  If they had done their duty to the public, my friend and his beloved dog would still be alive today.

More than anger, I feel true pity for Mr. Tungseth, because he is now going to have to face the consequences of his arrogance and selfishness - without the help of drugs to escape the harshness of his new reality.  He may come to see the faces of those whose lives he shattered with his uncaring self interest; even as it gradually dawns on him that he has now ruined his own life as well.  And what of punishment?  What to do with someone like this?  Some might say let the punishment fit the crime; instead of jail, just put this loser in a room full of Victor's friends and let things work themselves out.  Others might plead leniency, contending addiction is a sickness - and seek to rehabilitate the man, though I have my doubts as to how successful that approach ever is.  Buddha would say that committing the crime IS the punishment.  For as strongly as I feel my spiritual convictions about non-violence and unconditional love; if they dropped Mr. Tungseth off at my place for an interview I cannot say with total certainty what state of psychological health he would be in when they came to pick him up.  In the end, even Gandhi changed his mind about violence, after seeing too many die at British hands.

I am not comfortable with the frequency with which I am experiencing the death of a friend.  Victor makes three just in the last year...six over the last four years.  It teaches you to really cherish your friends, when you keep getting reminded just how fast they can disappear, without so much as a goodbye.  I try to stay positive, but it ain't easy, knowing the grim reaper one day comes for us all, ready or not.  The trick then, is to be each moment of each day.  Not to dwell upon it, no, rather to cherish each moment and each interaction, and to live them fully & freely with conscious intent.

Like I said, Victor is probably the only one who isn't pissed at what happened, I think he had that kind of awareness even before his recent change of address.  Perhaps it is true that the universe doesn't require our understanding, just our acceptance, because I can find no rhyme or reason to explain why my friend had to die such a hollow, untimely death.  We must remember that we don't always get to know why.

One of the many things Victor and I had in common is a love of The Grateful Dead music, and I cleave to that now as a way to keep that connection strong.  I like to think of him & Argus on a shiny new Harley...cruising down some astral highway....
"Going where the wind don't blow so strange"

Until Next Time ~ Cherish Each Other

A Song For Victor



  1. As long as You hold the Love for Them in your heart, they are not gone and always with you. God Bless.

  2. Your love for Victor and Argus vibrates within and through your words. My heart aches for the loss of Victor and Argus and the grief of all who mourn them. And I have joined with you all in mourning. The penatrating eyes of Victor and Argus have imprinted my consciousness forever. Linda K.

    1. Linda, thank you so much for your warm, heartfelt response. Indeed the eyes are the window to the soul, and Vic has a deep one.

  3. I'm sorry for you and your friend. Recently I've lost a friend too and I know it hurts. God Bless.

    1. ~We are all One~ Energy (Us)cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change form, or frequency vibration. Our friends will be around for a while, visiting and such, before they move on up the scale to higher vibrations still.

  4. SONNET ON SEPARATION (Vinicius de Moraes)

    Suddenly laughter became sobbing
    Silent and white like the mist
    And united mouths became foam
    And upturned hands became astonished.

    Suddenly the calm became the wind
    That extinguished the last flame in the eye
    And passion became foreboding
    And the still moment became drama.

    Suddenly, no more than suddenly
    He who'd become a lover became sad
    And he who'd become content became lon

    The near became the distant friend
    Life became a vagrant venture
    Suddenly, no more than suddenly.

    My condolences.

    1. ~Wander my brother~
      Thank you so much for posting this beautiful verse. You are a dear and enlightened soul. Namaste.

  5. Deepest condoleces, your love for victor is obviously strong. The pain cuts deep but it too shall pass and you'll be left with the great memories of a true friend.
    Keep your head up Chautaugua and just think of some trippin teddy's to cheer you up.

    1. Chris~ How spooky cool you should say that, as I have just such a teddy tripping across the window in my writers loft, a gift from yet another dear friend who is no doubt hanging with Jerry & Vic up yonder...

  6. you friend was a good person you could see it in his eyes, our time here is short, sorry for your loss.

    1. Indeed Ironhead, Victor's eyes were not easily dismissed, always a lot going on behind them. Vic's departure diminishes us all - we are all one! Thanks.

  7. Your writing was heartfelt and has motivated me to contact some friends I haven't seen in a while. Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes when I hear of people taken so needlessly, I like to think they are coming back soon to assist with the hard times we have ahead of us. The driver, unfortunately needs to stay and face his demons. Sorry also for your loss. May they both rest in peace!

    1. Hi Diane~ I'm so glad you reached out to your friends; all too often we let geographical or emotional distance prevent us from keeping our connections strong. Thank you for your words. Peaceful Blessings

  8. C
    I sent this link to my niece who has been having some troubles recently.
    I don't know. Maybe it will help. I feel your pain and wish you the best. Take your time. Remember your Alaska story about Nana telling you that you were strong enough to experience what you did and her grandson wasn't. I've found that we only get to experience what we can handle, but I believe that as we prove ourselves our challenges become greater. Be like the priest in "The Exorcist", not the first (young) one, but the one that had to be called in who could handle it (Max Von Sydow I believe). Sometimes life sends in the first team - like you!

    Bless Victor and Argus! And you!

    I believe that only by absorbing these feelings do we become stronger and rise to a new level of clarity. The spiritual path is not an easy one - that's why we find very few people along the way, it's like climbing a cliff face. Keep going to the top. When you get there, then you can turn around and lower down a rope for others.


    1. Good to hear from you again Jeff. Death is not to be feared, any more than walking thru a doorway is a transition into a more dignified and refined state of being. I dig the analogy of lowering a rope, and I shall, but these last few years it feels more like I'm holding the door open for friends leaving a bad movie before the credits roll. It calls for shifting perspectives. Peace brother, and thanks!

  9. Dear Chautauqua,

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your special friend and his faithful furry companion.

    Knowing how things work is all well and good until something hits too close to home. Then we react right from ego, in 3-D fashion, and it seems that all we know flies out the window. It's hard to reconcile what we have come to understand with real life when we are in great pain.

    We often feel for the one who has passed. How unfair that all the opportunities he had ahead of him will never be realized! Just last week, I was thinking of this in a new way. Our loved ones are in a beautiful place; one where many who visit too soon don't want to leave. This is according to many NDE accounts. It is actually the ones left behind who are going through something difficult. We are angry and hurt that someone dear to us has been taken away. We feel the pain of loss rather than celebrate that person's having moved to a better place. I used to think that death was part of the lesson for the ones who passed. Now I wonder if the lessons are for the ones left behind.

    I don't know if these difficult experiences are all part of moving us towards unconditional love. That seems awfully difficult when there is someone to "blame". I can't say either way, although it would be much easier for me to think so at this time, not being in your situation myself. It's not to say that other feelings aren't valid, and sometimes anger at something can be a force to make positive changes. Perhaps letting whatever feelings you have come naturally is the best way to go. Thinking about "shoulds" probably won't do much good. I'm sure you will go through many emotions over time, and some may even surprise you. In the end, I believe that whatever should happen, will happen, and all that you have learned and know deep within will guide you.

    My wish for you is that your many happy memories will soon begin to take away the sharp pain of your loss. Let those memories be an acknowledgement of the gift Victor has been to you.

    With much love,

  10. Clarity, you always have something uplifting and positive to share and today is no exception. I just keep telling myself that with so many close friends already on the other side, I should have quite a graduation party when its my turn. Vic & Argus are fine, indeed, and so happy to still be truckin' around together. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. After reading this, and listening to the tribute song on your page, I am filled with a profound sense of empathy for your loss, a deep sadness, and even confusion and amazement at how open you are in sharing this very touching and personal story with us all. I follow your blog for inspiration, insight, companionship and my soul is with you tonight in loving support. I have lost those close to me too, and have some sense of what you are going through, and though it is extremely difficult, it will expand your being in powerful ways. What they say about "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" might be better expressed as it kills you and makes you stronger. Like a caterpillar, the old you dies, and a new you emerges as you transform from such an experience.

    That you are seeking the deeper meaning of it all shows me you're going to be fine getting through this. First your question is put out to the universe, then slowly, over time the answers will come. There is a deeper meaning in it all, there are never any accidents. Everything is perfect, though it just may take time, maybe even a very long time, before those lessons will come. Be patient, and relax into the knowing you will be shown when the time is right.

    I can't help but wonder how much of your lesson will come from seeing how the ripples in your pond have touched many of us as we read and experience your story.

    I wish you comfort as the mystery unfolds for you.


  12. Dearest Chautauqua,

    I have only now returned to my computer to find your post. My heart is with you. Thank you for telling us of Victor and Argus. Through them, you have taught me. I was afraid of men on big motorcycles and I was afraid of pit bulls. I am no longer afraid. Thank you, Victor and Argus. Love, Althea

  13. Sorry, it is absolutely awful for such an event to occur that absolutely did not ever have to happen. The law gives responsiblilty to someone that has none. Like a young children, you don't allow them to drive a car, and someone blasted out of their mind has less sense and control of a vechicle than a child does. Addiction such as this has to be dealt with, and this means not allowing someone that has a mental disease to drive a 2000 or more pound vechicle. It serves little comfort that someone like this will spend many years in prison and not hurt anyone else, behind bars like an animal that is too selfish and too sick in the mind to ever consider getting into a car and even driving 10 feet.

    I truly wonder if someone before they gulped down their first drink or took that first hit of dope, if they could see the utter sadness and misery to so mnay that they bring if they would continue. All one can offer you and others is condolence and say that they wish someone could have warned your friend before it happened. I truly blame the U.S. legal system. Sorry again. Realist.

  14. My heart hurts for you. Losing a dear friend is painful but to have the complications and challenge of values and conscience can confuse us so. My heart is sending you energy, how you choose to use it is up to you. I hope it brings comfort.

    Discovering your blog has been a wonderful gift for me.

  15. Hey Chautauqua, thanks for the heartfelt and eloquent post on our mutual friend Victor. Perhaps I'll meet you at Devorah's house tomorrow night. Be well, Evan Dean

  16. Glad you liked it Evan, and yes...I'll see you there. Looking forward to meeting everyone. Thanks.

  17. The Why... always sought but rarely understood properly. I've come to think of those that leave us early (or what we consider early given our contexts of living) have paid their dues so to speak. They came to do something, and have done it. If Mahakala comes calling to relieve them of the burden of the rest of their time in this iteration of being then its undoubtedly for their own benefit that such occurs. Its our own attachment to others that makes it feel like a loss, when really it should be counted as a blessing to have known the likes of such. We just seem to desire more time in form with them feeling some part of ourselves being lost with their passing, which in some truth there was, as any relationship is an investment between two parties seeking mutual satisfaction from such. You seem like a good person with your writings and I've been recently drawn to shasta, only this year for the first time in my life, and I really felt at home for the short time I was up there. Anyways not sure if sharing my perspective is any more helpful than your already pretty clear grasping of Vics own perspective which in many ways is like my own. Regardless, I appreciate your sharing as its good to know others like me are out and about, even if not center stage.

    Take care and be well,

  18. Coruscant~
    Words of great wisdom and insight, thank you, and you are so right; it is very good to know other kindred souls still exist. I have often thought that the minute we figure it all out ~ Bam, we get vectored right oughtta here & back home. Maybe Vic just figured it out. If you get a chance to return to Shasta this summer, be sure you get up to the panther meadows campground, it's magic.

  19. Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
    Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
    Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
    Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

    Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
    Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
    Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
    Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

    He was my North, my South, my East and West,
    My working week and my Sunday rest
    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
    I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

    The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
    Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
    Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
    For nothing now can ever come to any good.

    ~ W.H. Auden

  20. We are common brothers; I too a surviving 'Nam combat vet - 1968-1969, Quang Nam Province, Phoenix Program. I penned this poem for a chick many years ago, sadly she didn't appreciate it much, so it is offered here to find some use in the universe and hopefully comfort in your bereavement.

    Of all the things;
    lost or gained,
    in our lives of longing
    for uncharted journey's;

    Could it be that I,
    so blind with all my passion;
    trip upon a dream?

    Never waking and never sleeping;
    yet filled with expectations,
    stumbling still the mighty river,
    Never pausing to remember...
    the smarting of the past.

    Her majestic torrent
    and generous tranquility,
    we look upon with disdain;
    For when we know,
    the secrets she possesses;
    our lives reflect the meaning.

    No promises made;
    nor promises kept,
    the stalwart river speaks...
    whispering silent exaltation;
    in our search to find
    the truth;
    of faith,
    and hope,
    with you.

    1. Brother~
      Your verse has found a home here, and in my heart. If all could experience your insight, what a different place this might be...someday.

      Thank You!

  21. I just found your blog. Awesome. It will take a few days to read through all of it. Interesting movie list. You left out one very important title; Videodrome.
    Good luck to you.

    1. Welcome Aboard!
      Videodrome is a favorite classic; alas, had to draw the line somewhere- but what with art imitating life & vice versa, it may yet make the list. Kinda started with the notion of keeping the nuggets focused on the spiritual as much as possible...everything changes! :)

  22. Thank you for sharing your words about Victor. I think about him a lot and miss him. We often chatted online late at night when most of my friends are asleep. That's when I miss him the most. I can only hope he knows he is in my heart and will be missed forever.

  23. Dear Sir:

    An awesome and elegant tribute to your friend! He does have lovely eyes.

    Many years ago my eleven year old sister died in a car crash. This event was her fate, and a gift to me. It began my spiritual journey because it made no sense that such a complex being could be wiped out and turned to worm food in an instant.

    One of the most healing things that I discovered was that her life had an amazing completeness that I had not noticed initially. I must honour the book "The Bridge over San Luis Rey" by Thornton Wilder. In this brief novel he investigates the lives of the 6-8 people (actually I don't remember how many). Through his questioning, he discovers that each life had reached a point of fulfillment. This led me to consider all the ways in which my sisters short life was complete. She had finished her school year, graduating top of her class. She had completed childhood and had not made the transition into puberty. Other more subtle things revealed themselves, and this brought me some peace.

    Perhaps in the upcoming months this truth will become apparent to your great and grieving heart.

    Best wishes on the journey.......