Love first

I asked a good friend on his deathbed, if there was anything I could do for him? He said. “Yes, let yourself love, unconditionally, without fear, as deeply as you can bare it. I wasted my whole life chasing money, and fun, and status, and if I could give all of that up right now to have one more day, to love my family properly, love (my wife) Sara without qualification or condition, to remember my neighbor’s name and care what his kids are up to, I would in a second. I was a shitty person—and not cause I was violent, or mean, or a jerk—but because I thought the people in my life were disposable, and I only used them when I saw benefit in it. I didn’t wake up every morning thanking God that I may have one more time to see a friend, look them in the eye, and genuinely open myself fully for their sake. Nothing I ever won, or bought, or took gives me any solace in this moment. The only things that provide me comfort now are the tiny memories of when I truly gave of myself all I could for others, and when I received such love—and since those moments were so brief and few, I have little of that comfort now.”
Death is scary, not just for me, knowing I’ll never see my friend again, but he was clearly scared—that he was leaving behind unfinished business, that he hadn’t given those he cared for most, all that he should have. I assured him that we would be alright, and hat he should not feel guilty for leaving. I wasn’t there at the moment of death, but I only hope that it was on as good of terms as a permanent goodbye can be.
I imagined how devastating a breakup can be—saying goodbye to someone you loved so much, no matter what the reason. And then imagined having to break up with every person in the world at the same time—your mother, and father, and children, and husband or wife, and every friend, every person you wanted to say sorry to, but didn’t have the time, everyone you meant to tell how proud you were of them, but forgot to. It must be a heartbreak I can’t come close to imagining. But if all that heartbreak was upon him and he only wished for one thing—to give even more of his heart, to be even more vulnerable, and risk even more of his love—then I have to believe him that selfless, unconditional love is the only thing we can bring with us everywhere we go, even death. And not lustful love, or romantic excitement of a new relationship. Not the half-assed love of a family member we know little about or only call during Christmas. Not the easy love, or fun love, but the love that lets the people you care about know—they are never alone, no matter how dismal things may be. We are all fighting painful wars in our lives, each and every one of us. The person you passed on the street this morning just found out her daughter died of a heroin overdose. Your coworker is in the middle of a violent divorce. Your friend just got cancer but hasn’t told anyone yet cause they are still in denial. Your partner can’t figure out how to open to you fully cause of deep-seated fears and pain and shame that have nothing to do with you. But when we muster the courage to let the vast rush of love swallow us whole and flow through us, we can touch those we care for in ways that touch back and light both souls up with the undeniable light of God. And when we lay in our own last bed, we will not regret the difficult times we labored to give another our love when they needed it, nor will we wish we had saved our love in a jar for later, nor will we leave behind an unfinished legacy we had begun with yearning—but a beautiful story that we told with love and ended with peace.

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