Redondo Beach Esplanade

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Seeing that Tel Aviv is in the headlines again this afternoon reminded me of something.

It was beautiful early evening on June 8, 1997 and a good friend was visiting from the Boston area to my home in Redondo Beach, California. He had business meetings in Southern California. We spent the morning doing chores in my back yard, sat on my grandparents’ old metal chairs, ate fruit off the trees right there in the yard, played with my Boxer dog Moqui and took him for a walk down on the nearby Redondo Beach Esplanade. Mike talked about his plans to move from Boston to Arizona and how much he enjoyed visiting the Grand Canyon and other places in the southwest. He joked about simplifying his life to the point of living in a large tipi in a remote area.  He spoke of his earlier career as a chef and how much he enjoyed preparing special meals for his friends.

For dinner that day we decided to visit a nearby Japanese restaurant we had been to before. My friend Mike had a dinner which they served him on a large plate there at the sushi bar, while I enjoyed the yellow-tail sashimi and special rolls they made. We shared warm sake in square wooden cups, enjoyed a relaxing meal and chatted with the sushi chef who drew our names on the wooden cups that night. He wanted us to come back as regulars.

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It was around 9:30 p.m. when we got back to my home and after letting my dogs outside in the backyard, I felt sleepy from the lovely meal and sake, deciding to go to bed early while Mike stayed up exploring my book shelves and reading at the dining room table before pulling out the living room sofa bed and turning in himself.

Around 5:00 a.m. my dog woke me up and seemed to be really uneasy about something so I got up, noticing all the lights were still on in the living and dining rooms.

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I saw Mike on the floor laying on his back and rushed over and grabbed his arms. They were completely stiff as were his legs which were still bent from him sitting in a dining room chair.His arms and legs seemed frozen, both bent from being seated on a dining room chair. His eyes were wide open and he felt cold. I ran over to the telephone and tried dialing 911 a few times and then tried dialing zero and asked the operator for help because I was fumbling so much.

The next few minutes seemed much longer. When the firemen came in, the first sound they made was a chuckle and “he’s long gone”, as if I couldn’t hear him joke about it. Two police officers arrived and started asking me questions about Mike. While one officer talked with me, the other brought a yellow plastic tarp and covered Mike over. I was asked to get Mike’s suitcase and give it to them. Then the coroner arrived and those two men put Mike into a black zippered bag. I could see his bent legs and arms still stiff from when he died suddenly from a massive heart attack while sitting in the chair.

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It was still very early on a Sunday morning and I called Tony, a young man who worked part time for me at my office. He still lived at home; he and his father drove over to pick me up and bring me over to their home for the day. That was a numb and very strange Sunday. I’m grateful for the kindness this young man’s family extended to me that day. Although I wasn’t bleeding from a physical wound, they tenderly took care of me that day because they saw how I was in shock and unbearable pain inside.

About three days later I drove to the southwest desert because I needed to spend time in favorite places that brought comfort, silence and solace. At the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, I burned some sage and said a prayer for Mike. His family had decided to fly his body directly from the L.A. coroners office to Tel Aviv, Israel for burial so I never had a chance to attend his funeral. This was my ritual for saying a goodbye there at the South Rim.

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Redondo Beach Riviera Way

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About three months later, I scheduled an appointment with a psychic in Redondo Beach. Her answer to my “why did this happen; he was only 49 years old?” was a memorable one. She told me “Because Mike felt safe to cross over in your home. Your home was and is a safe place for you and others.” Her perspective brought considerable comfort to me and helped me to heal.

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