Endings & Beginnings

“The road is long and seeming without end

The days go on, I remember you my friend

And though you’re gone

And my heart’s been emptied it seems

I’ll see you in my dreams” – Bruce Springsteen.

It’s been a rough patch of time.

In the past month or so, I’ve lost five friends, learned that another has a terminal illness and watched yet another dodge a health scare.

Welcome to middle age. Sometimes it feels like a mine field. I step out my door and try and dodge the bad news.

An older friend of mine used to describe aging as “a massacre.”

I know some of you visit this blog for a weekly dose of inspiration and I try to deliver.

But I also hope you expect a dose of honesty and if I am going to be truthful, I have to share the sad stories too. And the truth is life is beautiful, sad, wonderful, and painful—all at once.

When we’re young, endings are a remote concept. You know things don’t last forever, but there are far more hello’s than goodbyes when we’re young.

But by the time we hit middle age, we slam into a wall. I think they call it reality. And reality— as they say—bites.

I lost a business colleague last week and it hurts. This gentleman visited us from New Jersey frequently and told lots of great stories. He dreamed of the future and urged us to do big things. He called me “kid” or “kiddo” and I liked it because the nickname was affectionate and because well, I’m not a kid anymore so it was good to hear.

My friend talked about getting a place in Delray “someday” but someday never happened. He endured one last Jersey winter and now this man and all his stories are gone just when the leaves on the barren trees grow green again.

A few weeks ago, I told you about losing my friend Beth Johnston, a community servant beyond compare and last week I wrote a little about the lovely artist Susan Romaine and the charming and accomplished Jim Sclafani and a few weeks before that about Skip Brown, a retired Delray police officer who won a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam. As I write this, I just learned that we lost Carl Wesley, a legendary local educator and beloved bandleader who touched countless lives in this community.

These special people added so much to this place we call home. It’s the special people that make us a village; that make us more than a Zip Code or a dot on the map.

For me, that’s what Delray has always been about.

When I drive the streets of this place I’ve called home for 36 years, so many corners, so many buildings conjure up memories of special people. When you live in a place long enough, these intersections are both literal and figurative.

When I come to work, I pass by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and I think of my friend Father Chip Stokes.

I’m not an Episcopalian, but I spent some time in that church when Chip was there because we connected on a human level, and we were passionate about the same issues. Chip’s church sat on the dividing line of Swinton Avenue—a line that kept Black and white apart for so long. I wanted to break down the barriers that divided us—I wanted to smash the prejudices that hurt so many for so long and so did Chip. I saw him as a champion who opened the doors to his church and I wanted to know this man, because I saw his heart.

Chip Stokes is a talented man, and those talents were recognized by his church. When a team came to town interviewing parishioners and community leaders about Chip because he was under consideration to become a Bishop in New Jersey, I found myself choking up describing his role in our community. My reaction surprised me, and I apologized. But describing his heart and the important role he played as a sounding board for so many moved me to my core.

When I drive A1A, I pass Caffe Luna Rosa and Boston’s on the Beach.  I think of the proprietors and founders, Fran Marincola and Perry Don Francisco. Both are long gone from the day-to-day bustle of those landmark restaurants, but they left a lasting mark and continue to impact lives. Special men; like characters out of a wonderful movie. I treasure these guys.

When I drive a few blocks north to George Bush Boulevard, I think of once seeing presidential candidate Michael Dukakis jogging on the street (think about the irony for a moment) and I remember when the Governor and his wife Kitty spent winters in Delray teaching at FAU and working for the Wayside House respectively. I made it a point to meet the Governor and we spent a few days riding with our police officers because he was fascinated by our city’s efforts to embrace community oriented policing, a philosophy of law enforcement that was truly special.

Before I reach U.S. 1, I glance over at St. Vincent Ferrer School ,and I think about Sister Mary Clare. She was so special, so loving, so much fun. She retired and took that marvelous brogue back to Ireland. I miss her.

On my way home, I pass by the Achievement Center and think of my good friend Nancy Hurd, who started her life’s mission over 50 years ago in a church basement. That mission changed countless lives over the decades. She’s retired too, but I see her name adorning the campus every time I head east toward downtown, and I think of Nancy. What an amazing legacy she created.

Loss, illness, and time makes me nostalgic—and appreciative too.

I hope these examples inspire you to be grateful too. I hope they inspire you to continue to contribute.

Middle age…. what an interesting time of life. Yes, there is loss and yes there are times when my head thinks I’m 25 and then I look in the mirror and wonder who is  this old guy  staring back at me?

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s hope and life left. Hopefully, lots of life left. Let me share an example.

I have this friend.

He reads this blog every Monday. He wants me to record it, so he can listen instead of read, but I don’t have the technical chops. But if he reads this far, I have a surprise for him.

My friend’s name is Randy Smith, and he has this great company called Heritage Flooring. The company has been wildly successful and has enabled Randy and others to live great lives.

Randy sails.

Randy skis.

Randy goes to great restaurants and visits exotic locales. And I love that he shares it all with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning.

About a year or so ago, Randy took up the guitar. And you know what?  He rocks.

He sends his buddies videos, and he can sing, and he can play and he’s having a great time doing both. He’s also my age, 58, and I just admire that he’s attacking life with joy, spirit, and resilience. Like others, he has worked hard for his success and overcome all sorts of adversity. But his gusto, his zest for life and personal growth inspires all of us in his orbit.

He’s become an expert in business, politics, human health, investing and now music. And he motivates those of us who feel slammed by middle age to live in the moment. Last week, Randy’s world was hit by tragedy when a beloved colleague at Heritage died at the age of 39; proof that life is fragile, our time finite. We must live now. We must savor our days and create the moments that give us meaning.

I’ll conclude this indulgence—and thanks for taking the ride—with a shout out to a 73-year-old inspiration known as “The Boss.”

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band are on the road and rocking arenas across America. We saw them in Tampa in February and I’m still riding high from the experience.

Anyway, Bruce’s most recent album “Letter to You” is remarkable. It’s about loss, life, love, friendship, death, and the hereafter. The songs pack a punch, and he plays a whale of a guitar. He’s also an inspiration. You may hate his music. You may hate his politics, but you can’t deny that into his 70s he can still play. And there’s something redeeming about someone putting it on the line every night in his 70s.

Recently, I had the privilege of appearing on a podcast called “That One Lyric” hosted by Ted Canova, who happens to have a brother who lives in Delray. Here’s a link to the show and a conversation about a song that has gotten me through some dark days. Maybe it will help you too.



Well, now young faces grow sad and old

And hearts of fire grow cold

We swore blood brothers against the wind

I’m ready to grow young again—Bruce Springsteen, No Surrender.




  1. Pat Sciarillo says

    As always great blog. I too starting to feel my “age”. All new neighbors in our community. When my husband and i moved here 21 years ago we were the “kids” now most of those neighbors are long gone. Today would have been my 52nd anniversary but sadly God took my husband home 6 years ago onna visit to my children in NJ and Pa. We moved here an he (and I) jumped full in to get involved in the cimmunity. He took over our social club took a break and was President of our Board for 5 years. He loved living here. Keep hoping Delray will get back to where it was. You were the best Mayor.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      I’m so sorry for your loss Pat. My heart goes out to you on this special day. 46 years…what a gift. But it is never enough when you lose someone special. I’ll be thinking of you today.
      Thanks so much for your kind words. It means a lot to me.

  2. Rosemary Nixon says

    I have lived in Boca Raton and Delray Beach for 30 years. Everywhere I go reminds me of something or someone that was a part of “community”. Community is something you create as well as being a place.

  3. Patricia Maguire says

    Well, gee, Jeff, you got me sobbing.
    We lost a dear, dear, long time friend on Sunday.
    Saturday we went to two “celebrations of life”.
    One is never ready for these losses.
    A walk on the beach this morning restored a bit of balance to my soul, and then I read your column and thought: how wonderful to be remembered with love and admiration. How great to make a difference in someone’s life. Thank you for that.
    Now to pick up a brush and paint the world I see with the colors of my emotions.
    Make it a good day! Every day is a gift.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      I’m so sorry for your losses my friend.
      I think a great way to feel alive is to create more art, because art is life. And you have such a gift.

  4. Paula Jones says

    I am reading your Blog minutes after receiving a text from a friend of 43 years, that her mother was put into Hospice this am. One day last week, I noticed on Facebook that several deaths of friends, friend’s family, or friend’s of friends. I had to unplug for a few days. It is a fact of life that none of us will escape, but it seems like I crossed over some kind of barrier and rather than celebrating graduations, and weddings – I am leaving memorials. Being just a few years younger than yourself, it is just happening too soon it seems. I do appreciate these words from your post:
    “We must live now. We must savor our days and create the moments that give us meaning.” Thank you for sharing, this is just what I needed today!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.