My Teacher’s Death Poem

John Heider

There is an ancient tradition in Taoism and Zen of writing a death poem to leave behind. My Teacher John Heider wrote this poem ten days before he died. His teachings are at the heart and the foundation of Adaptive Center, so I wanted to share this heritage, our heritage, with you.

I love and miss him, and I’m grateful for all his gifts.



I diminish.

I diminish inexorably.

I lose weight as an
iceberg loses weight –
sloughing rivulets off me –
running into the sea.

I lose weight as an unbelled
garden loses songbirds.

I lost 100 lbs and had
to be told to look in a mirror.
I could not feel a difference
in the lightness of my step.

When I did look, I was
shocked to see a survivor of
a camp or a march.

Did I remember how weak I felt?
The missing muscles mass
is simply gone, I don’t know where.

I don’t know where I have gone.
I’ve joined my glacial runoff.
I’ve joined songbirds in another garden.