The Bench

One of the roles I cherish is that of “coach.” For over thirty years I have been fortunate enough to have people who want to learn and choose me to be a part of their journey. I never take this lightly. And maybe the moments mean more having lost the ability to do it as much as I would like.

In one of my quiet rituals, I arrive long before the time I am set to teach. These spaces may seem artificial but it allows time for stillness, planning, reflecting, and spontaneity. Where I teach is as sweet a setting as one could find. It is quiet. There is a view of a lake, beautiful trees all around, and a path where neighbors pass with two-legged or four-legged friends. And the birds come in shifts and I appreciate their songs…

The spontaneity… Many a connection and good conversation have happened with me parked on the bench.

above the court image

One day a friend pulled up, unloaded a basket of tennis balls and headed to a neighboring court. We shared a greeting from afar. I had about twenty minutes before my lesson and I soaked up the view and glanced over at my friend to see what he was up to. He had a lesson as well but kept looking my way. Intuitively I sensed he wanted to talk and moments later we were side by side.

This gentleman—and truly he was a kind and gentle man—filled me in on what was happening in his life. Apparently, he’d had a nagging cough and one day he coughed up blood. Shortly thereafter he learned he had stage four lung cancer. A fit, happy, vibrant man one day and the next…

We stayed on the bench and talked some more. He tried his best to reassure me. He was in a good place, had some good response to a new treatment, and he was optimistic. His spirit was bright and strong. The bench felt good.

Months passed and I spent little time on that bench because of my own challenges. Over a year later I was walking up to the courts and spotted familiar faces. Everything felt good: the smells, sounds, and sights of a familiar space. Mid-game an old friend greeted me. It has been a while and we talked through the fence like a confessional—one of the odd rituals of the courts. We got around to our friend—for he was well known here and well-loved.

He had died a few months ago.

The bench felt different. While licking our own wounds life goes on. And sometimes we miss things. I will miss the unwavering spirit of my friend. And remember how he tried to comfort me through his pain and suffering. Courageous and caring…. I hope at some point when he finds the time, he joins me again for a chat on the bench.

Rest in Peace, CB.


Photo by J.C. Panepinto

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About Dr. John Panepinto

Direction. Execution. Evolution. Each day can be an expression of living with purpose and focusing on what matters most. My sites share this theme of vision, living in our most important roles and responsibilities from imagination and creativity in a simple, practical way. I am committed to educating and serving, founded in principles of development, that people can use and practice in their every day lives.