Storytelling at Work
August 11, 2022
Getting Ready to Cross Over


This is my friend, Warren Bernhardt. I saw him early this evening in his room, on his death bed. Warren is getting ready to move on after 83 years on planet Earth. As usual, I brought him a chocolate milkshake, even though a few days ago he decided not to drink anything anymore, just as he had decided not to eat anything anymore. But the last time I visited him, he asked if i would bring him a milkshake and so I did.

Before I visited today, I spoke with his beautiful daughter, Nicole, and we talked about whether or not I should actually give him the milkshake, wanting to honor his new commitment not to drink anything anymore. Nicole suggested I put it in the refrigerator and just visit him, but if he asked for the milkshake (choice, always choice!), then I would bring it to him. Four seconds after walking into his room, Warren asked me if I had brought the milkshake, so I fetched it from the kitchen, held it for him and bent the straw in his direction, so he could sip. But try as he might, he could not get anything from the straw. So, I pulled the straw out and sucked the bottom of it, clogged as it was, with a chunk of vanilla ice cream. It tasted very good.

Warren laughed. And then it was his turn. He took four sips and then asked me to put it back in the refrigerator, which I did.

We talked about many things and laughed a lot. Then we started talking about gratitude and grace and how important it was, at this time of his life, to focus on them both. He told me that is exactly what he has been doing on his death bed -- thinking about all that he has to be grateful for -- his son, Tim, his daughter Nicole, his wife Jan, and his friends and his music -- all of the music that has come through him for so many years, bringing delight and inspiration to millions of people all over the world.

At one point in his life, Warren's roommate was Bill Evans. They spent 12 hours each day playing 4-handed piano, the two of them sitting on the same piano bench, playing music, together, into the wee hours of the night.

The last time I visited Warren, someone in the living room was playing his piano. Warren liked what he heard and he asked me to find out who it was and thank him. It was a 12-year old boy, Charlie. I thanked Charlie on Warren's behalf, then played chopsticks with Angel, Rachel's son, for a little while.

There is a look of bliss on Warren's face, these days, that is a prelude to his moving on -- a letting go of the pain and the world. He hopes his father will meet him on the other side and many of his teachers and friends who have gone before him.

We talked more about grace and gratitude, Warren noting that both words begin with the same three letters.

Yesterday, Scott played some of Warren's music for him on his laptop and he loved it. I mentioned to Warren that some people, when they leave their body, hear celestial music. Warren told me he didn't want to hear celestial music when it was his time to go. He wanted to hear jazz!

I will see Warren again, God willing, on Friday, with one more chocolate milkshake. (When I hold the straw for him, I can tell when it is getting to his lips because of the coolness I feel between my thumb and index finger. That, and the smile on his lips.)

Ladies and gentlemen: here's to coolness and sweetness! Here's to gratitude and grace! Here's to the precious few moments left in all of our lives!

In terms of eternity, Warren is leaving just a few milliseconds before the rest of us. His passing is a gentle reminder for each and everyone of us of just how temporary this life is and how fortunate we are to be alive -- and when it's time to go, as it will inevitably be one day, to feel the sweetness on our lips and in our hearts for all of the blessings in our lives. Ki Jai!

PS: Before I left Warren's room today, I asked him if I could take his photo and share the essence of what we talked about with all of you. He smiled and said YES.

PPS: If you want to listen to some of Warren's music, click below.

Fun Ride
Sara's Touch

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at August 11, 2022 03:47 AM


I always felt the love when I was with Warren and family. He told me he'd be in Mpls playing with Simon and Garfunkel. He got me two tix. I recall this was the night The Everly Bros opened the show then came out later and sang with S&G. It was an incredible experience for this ol' rocker. I know we will miss him here in the Land of Almost 12,000 Lakes. I dig you, brother. You're the most on toast from coast to coast!

Posted by: Steve Cronin [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2022 02:24 PM

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Storytelling at Work is a blog about the power of personal storytelling – why it matters and what you can do to more effectively communicate your stories – on or off the job. Inspired by the book of the same name, the blog features "moment of truth" stories by the author, Mitch Ditkoff, plus inspired rants, quotes, and guest submissions by readers.

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Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
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"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
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