Today our son Ben would have been 30. He died at 28. His death changed the way we are in fundamental ways. We are probably retired and living down here in Arizona in a great measure because of it. Both of us worked our whole careers in the helping professions, me as a counselor and Katie a social worker. It felt like we couldn't do it anymore. We both know we will continue to be giving and helping people, but the level of intensity of our jobs was too much after Ben died. Moving to Arizona was somewhat of a new beginning. Both of us are determined not to have our grief define our lives, but to live what we have left in a full and meaningful way. Soon enough our lives will be over too. One of the ways we've changed is that we have limited tolerance for the superficial, i.e. social events or interactions that promote the participants' egoes. Needless to say we haven't been going to many of the social events here in Green Valley. There are all sorts of clubs and groups to join. I know many of the retirees here have experienced tragedies in their lives. You can't have lived this long without losing someone you love: parents, spouses, friends, relatives, pets and children. We are not unique in that. But everyone handles it differently. With Ben's death, we seem to have lost a certain kind of happiness, one that is conditional and circumstantial. It's hard to continue playing the "game of life". It would be easy to become depressed and many people do. There is certainly some depression that has become part of our personalities. But we also realize this is an opportunity to become more authentic people, livng more honest and thoughtful lives. We've found there is peace in stillness, and that life is good, and that friends and family matter. We've found that appreciation and true enjoyment only happens in its own time and only when one is totally present. We are learning to live our lives from the inside out. And out of this still peaceful feeling, everything good can be experienced and appreciated. Ben's death helped us to become more real and more compassionate. Happy birthday, Ben, and thank you. We witnessed and experienced the light of life and love in you and we will continue to cultivate it in ourselves.