all things must pass

Today my 92-year-old friend and mentor called me. I hardly recognized his voice, it was so barely audible. “I’m becoming weaker every day,” he said. “It’s happening very fast.”

We spoke for only a few minutes. He was returning a call I’d placed before Christmas, and he was apologetic it had taken him so long to get back to me. I had wanted to ask his advice about something, but I decided not to burden him today. He was too weak and tired to discuss anything.

Something about the call told me that now is the time the baton was being passed. The time is now past when I might turn to him for wisdom and strength. From now on it is I who must be wise and strong. He has imparted to me all he has to give. I am the old man now.

As adult children, we grieve every decrease in our parents’ functioning. This man was not my father, but he has filled that role for me for more than 25 years since we met on a mountaintop in Switzerland.

A wise man once said that all the art of living lies in a fine balancing of letting go and holding on. Some think that holding on is a mark of strength; but sometimes the strength is in letting go. Letting go doesn’t mean giving up, but rather accepting that there are some things that can no longer be. I will always hold on to what my mentor has taught me.

I think of the strength of bamboo in the wind. The bamboo doesn’t try to stand up straight and erect. A tree or branch that tries too hard to stand up straight is the one that breaks off. The bamboo allows itself to bend and be blown with the wind. It knows the strength of letting go.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to George Harrison performing “All Things Must Pass”



It is with great sadness that I have learned that my mentor C. Robert Binger passed away on August 14, 2012. The world is an emptier place without him in it.

We have been good friends ever since I met him in Switzerland in 1986. He always gave me sage advice whenever I asked. A private man, he always trusted me to listen to listen to his hopes and troubles in confidence. I have always said that if I could have picked a father, it would have been him. He was a gentleman of the old school, and my life is richer for having learned his ways. I loved him.

Reprinted here is his obituary as published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

C. Robert Binger of Dellwood, White Bear Lake, passed away at home August 14th, 2012. He was born on September 11, 1918 to Vida Debar Binger and Dr. Henry E. Binger. On April 6, 1942 he married Elizabeth Wann who died on May 2, 1984. He was a graduate of the St. Paul Academy, the School of Forestry at the University of Minnesota and the Graduate School of Forestry at Yale University. On March 1, 1941 he was elected an Associate Member of the Sigma Xi and on March 1, 1975 he received the Outstanding Achievement Award from The Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota. On September 17, 1974 he was elected to the Explorers Club of New York in recognition of five sled trips he made to the Canadian Arctic with nomadic Inuit people from 1965 -1970. He is survived by four children, Thomas Wann Binger of St. Paul, Robert Bruce Binger of Stillwater, Robert M. Binger of Minneapolis, and Erika Anne Binger Roberts of Asheville, North Carolina. He attended the Naval Training School of Dartmouth College and served on the staff of Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander of All Naval Forces in the Pacific and on the staff of Admiral Richard Kelly Turner Commander of The Amphibious Forces in the Pacific. He participated in landings of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Returning to the Naval Service during The Korean War, he served on the aircraft carrier USS PHILIPPINE SEA and participated in the landing at Inchon, South Korea. He retired from the Naval Reserve in 1957 as a Lieutenant Commander. He joined the Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company in 1946 and became Vice President of Operations in Canada and the United States in 1967. In 1968 he joined the Northern Pacific Railroad as Vice President of the Natural Resource Division, President of the Plum Creek Lumber Company, and a member of the Northern Pacific Board of Directors. He retired on January 1, 1981. He served on the Board of Directors of the M&A Zinc Company of LaSalle, Illinois, Connor Forest Industries of Wausaw, Wisconsin, Crows Nest Industries of Fernie British Columbia, and the Big Sky Ski Development in Montana. Memorial service to be held Sept. 8th at 2 PM, at St. John the Evangelist Church, Kent & Portland, St. Paul, MN.


2 Responses to “all things must pass”

  1. 1 matt
    January 24, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Your friend is passing the torch, Dan. Take it and let him see you hold it high!

    There are those whose influence defines our lives, and we are most fortunate if we can recognize their gift and share our appreciation while they are still among us. We’ve talked of my mentors before, Dan, those who saved me from whatever fate awaited, to live a good life of some achievement. Some, I was able to thank in person, but for others, time took them before I could show them what a difference they had made in the life of one child, one young man. Now I find myself in the role of mentor, Dan, inspired by people like you and them. Now I am the one hoping that my young proteges recognize my message, and take strength from the words I offer them . . . hoping they seize the opportunity to change their young lives. I may never know the outcome, but I know from my own experiences, that I can make a difference in their lives. I’d like to share something from a letter that I coincidentally wrote to one of our young friends, just this evening:

    “Remember my mentor, Mr. X? I couldn’t really express my gratitude to him when I was young, mostly because I didn’t really understand the impact he had on my life until much later, but after we talked, I remember feeling better about myself, better about my life and the opportunities which still lay ahead for me. I took what he said at face value, and I knew that things could change for me, that things had to change, that I could be something more, that I could be someone better. He gave me hope, X, and sometimes, hope is all we need to get us through even our darkest days. I told you in my first letter, nearly a year ago, that I was writing to you to share that message of love and forgiveness . . . a message of hope and a vision for a good future. Calm your fears, X, be confident in yourself, your inner strength, your beliefs, your goals, and the support of those who care about you.”

    Saving one child may not save the world . . . but surely, for that one child, life will change forever. – Unknown

  2. 2 £ance
    January 26, 2012 at 3:06 am

    Thinking of you and your friend Dan – keep strong and whilst “the baton passes”, we must all go forward to help and encourage those for whom we have put up our hands. Will talk to you by E-mail soon, but am still trying to get my head around the situations a couple of our “charges” have found themselves in. Best wishes, £ance.

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