Stan Goldberg

In 2016, the huge Soberanes fire on the Monterey Peninsula became the most expensive wildfire in American history. In this archived Perspective, Stan Goldberg faced the destruction of a family cabin by reflecting on the meaning of memory and loss.

As the Soberanes fire in Carmel threatens the Monterey peninsula, our cabin may become a charred monument to quiet weekends, solitude, and cherished family gatherings.

I’m told it’s roaring through canyons with heat that melts metal. As I prepared to retrieve treasured objects, I learned the road to the cabin is closed and mandatory evacuations are in effect.

For days I watched dramatic pictures of the fire on Facebook, juxtaposed to families celebrating and people describing their breakfast.

In my hospice work, I shared the pain of relatives who couldn’t stop the death of a loved one. They could only witness the event. Their helplessness is what I’m experiencing now. The destruction of the cabin and it’s contents will be inconsequential compared to the loss of a loved one. But how do I deal with losing something so treasured just the words, “our cabin,” causes me to smile? I’ll do it through memories.

For 15 years I counseled caregivers about the importance of letting go. Now it’s my turn. My turn to let go believing a miracle will stop the fire. My turn to let go of the source of much happiness. My turn to let go of the belief my needs can prevent the inevitable.

We often hold on to the past with a grasp so tight it stops us from experiencing the present and moving into the future. Life without my retreat will be difficult, but the memories it created for 30 years will remain. When Ilsa and Rick in the movie, Casablanca, are departing for the last time, he tries to console her by saying, “We’ll always have Paris.” It’s my turn now to say goodbye to my cabin. Your memories, just as Paris did with Rick and Ilsa, will always be with me.

With a Perspective, I’m Stan Goldberg.

Stan Goldberg lives in San Francisco and is the author of several books on loss.

As the Soberanes fire in Carmel threatens the Monterey peninsula, our cabin may become a charred monument to quiet weekends, solitude, and cherished family gatherings.

I’m told it’s roaring through canyons with heat that melts metal. As I prepared to retrieve treasured objects, I learned the road to the cabin is closed and mandatory evacuations are in effect.

For days I watched dramatic pictures of the fire on Facebook, juxtaposed to families celebrating and people describing their breakfast.

In my hospice work, I shared the pain of relatives who couldn’t stop the death of a loved one. They could only witness the event. Their helplessness is what I’m experiencing now. The destruction of the cabin and it’s contents will be inconsequential compared to the loss of a loved one. But how do I deal with losing something so treasured just the words, “our cabin,” causes me to smile? I’ll do it through memories.

For 15 years I counseled caregivers about the importance of letting go. Now it’s my turn. My turn to let go believing a miracle will stop the fire. My turn to let go of the source of much happiness. My turn to let go of the belief my needs can prevent the inevitable.

We often hold on to the past with a grasp so tight it stops us from experiencing the present and moving into the future. Life without my retreat will be difficult, but the memories it created for 30 years will remain. When Ilsa and Rick in the movie, Casablanca, are departing for the last time, he tries to console her by saying, “We’ll always have Paris.” It’s my turn now to say goodbye to my cabin. Your memories, just as Paris did with Rick and Ilsa, will always be with me.

With a Perspective, I’m Stan Goldberg.

Stan Goldberg lives in San Francisco and is the author of several books on loss.

When I heard of Pope Benedict's resignation, I knew it was time to reassess my life.

At 67, I would like to think that I have the physical strength I had at 40. But when I have difficulty lifting a single case of bottled water, I know I've changed. Playing four-wall handball with guys in their 30s used to be a joy. Now, I search for men older than me. As a university professor, multi-tasking was a way of life. Now, holding onto a single thought can be challenging at times.

Aging became real when abilities that held a significant place in my life vanished. And as my mind and body wind down, I realize that death is no longer something on the distant horizon, but rather an approaching appointment. But what causes the greatest angst is my changing identity.

Identity is based on how we view ourselves — our abilities, roles, values, needs and beliefs — whether that person is Pope Benedict or me. While the components in our respective identity stews differ, we face the same dilemma: change one significant thing for either of us and the flavor changes. Change too many things and what was a vegetable soup becomes Vichyssoise. Even if we lose only a few abilities, if they were significant, we both become different people, despite pronouncements of some New Age pundits that a person's core never changes. Ah, if life were only that simple. But we are what we do and believe.

For me, the lesson gained from the pope's resignation is very simple: if the person who holds the most powerful autocratic position in the world can recognize that he can no longer function effectively because of aging, maybe I can graciously accept the 20-something's offer to give me her seat on Muni.

With a Perspective, I'm Stan Goldberg.

Stan Goldberg writes non-fiction books about aging, care giving and end-of-life.  He's just completed his first novel.