There is that four letter word, again.
It is so powerful, it can bring you to the highest mountain and show you the world, in a moment it can also tell you, that that is everything you cannot have and will send you tumbling into the rocks below.
We give it such power, so eagerly, too, but it’s funny isn’t it? When asked about love, most the time, we speak about pain, because pain leaves impressions so deep, they are seared into our heart and bleed out into our souls.
Perhaps there are many moments that taught me lessons on love, but one that taught me far more than anything else ever could. But to tell you that, I must take you on a journey, the journey of he and I, where it all began and where it all fell.
I was 15, it was his 16th birthday party. I had never met him before, but I knew who he was. My mother had talked about “D” many times. You see, his mother and my mother are best friends. It was quite comical actually, they had already seemed to arrange our entire future marriage. I laughed and went along with them, as it seemed to just be a joke, though a very hopeful one, until the day I met him.
His party took place at a park and when we arrived he and his friends were playing four-square. I didn’t pay much attention in the beginning as I was conversing with my mother, but as we walked up the hill towards the pavilion, my eye’s met D’s.
It was a magical moment really, apart from him almost getting hit in the face with a ball, though that was kind of funny, too. Our eyes locked and everything faded. It was as if we had known each other in another life. Our souls reached out to dance with one another, as if they were saying, “Finally, we meet again.” In that moment, I knew. I knew that I had spent a life with him before and that I so desperately wanted to do it again. Before that moment, I did not believe in love at first sight, I thought it was a silly myth, but in that moment, I was living it.
When we finally broke contact, we shared a shy smile. We stole glances at each other the entire evening and when we left, it seemed as if my soul awakened and it would not rest.
We shared lots of shy moments like that over the years.
3 years later, we went on our first date.
I felt as if my heart was going to beat out of my chest.
I bought a new outfit, one that is now tucked away in a drawer along with all the memories we ever made. I had experimented with my hair and it was strawberry red. I almost cancelled the date because of it. Later I found out he told his mother he loved it and that it looked beautiful on me.
It was our first date and our last.
But it was beautiful.
It was easy. I could breathe with him.
But I couldn’t be with him.
I was the fire that would torch his unflawed soul.
I couldn’t do that to him. I did not deserve him. Not yet. Not at that point.
He shined so brightly, he appeared to be the sun, always in the light and I, was like the moon, and preferred the darkness of night.
We were both career driven, goal-oriented. We both longed for our Ph.D’s and planned on getting them. He would have never asked me to give anything up, because he understood. He was the same. He wanted that for me just as I wanted that for him. We believed that we would find our way back together after our degrees and then life would be ours for the taking.
It was going to be us against the world, but the universe had other plans…
Fast forward three years from our first date…
It was a Wednesday when my mother called me to let me know something was possibly wrong, but it was a text message that broke my heart.
I still remember that text with such clarity, “I’m sorry, honey. I’m so so sorry.”
That was the moment I knew.
I hit the floor as I felt my world shatter as if it were a glass globe.
I’m not sure how much time passed before I moved. I laid there as I thought back to all our conversations, all the opportunities that I let pass to tell him how I felt, how I loved him, how I really did want it to be me and him in the end.
The sun rose to another day, I did not move out of bed. It couldn’t be true. How could the universe allow me to meet someone and then take them away before we had any time?
I didn’t go to class. I didn’t take that test. I ignored all phone calls and messages unless it was from my mother or his.
The sun was shining outside, but it was so dark in my heart.
I went to work and sorority events without speaking about it, no one had any idea, because if I talked about it, then it had to be true, and my heart simply could not bear that.
His funeral was on Sunday. I drove home from college. There was snow on the ground, but no matter how cold it was outside, my soul was colder. I had to give myself a pep talk in order to go to the funeral home and another before I walked in..
“Do not cry. Your tears will not bring him back. They will not change anything. Do not let them fall. Deep breath. Be strong. Be strong for Mama T.”
There were more people there than what was comfortable. I didn’t see them though. All I could see was the beautiful boy at the end of the walkway. The boy who would have moved mountains, who would have helped people, who would have saved the world. The boy who deserved to live.
It was a condition that no one knew he had. Tests were run, but no one knew his heart was like a ticking time bomb, his heart stopped suddenly and the rest of ours blew to shreds.
I felt as if my I were walking in quick sand, my legs felt heavy, the closer I was to the casket, the slower I moved. When I finally made it up there, I held my breath and closed my eyes for a brief second to remember the boy who was once filled with so much life.
I felt hands on my shoulders from behind. I did not have the heart to look, because at that point I honestly did not care. All I could see was him. Lying in the casket. Where he would be buried. Along with everything that could have been.
His grandmother put an arm around me and said, “He looks good doesn’t he?”
How do you respond to a question like that? I didn’t. He’d look better if he were alive, I thought, but I merely nodded. Eyes never leaving him.
“He talked about you all the time, sweetheart. All the time.”
My eyes moved from the casket to face her. Her hand found its way to my cheek, she gave me a smile and nodded while tears wet her cheeks. She knew. She knew how I felt. How he felt.
Out of the corner of my eye, I realized that I had an audience. His aunt was sitting beside Mama T, she smiled at me, stood up, and walked away. Mama T gave me a sad smile and patted the seat next to her. As soon as I sat down, both her arms found their way around my body and pulled me close to her, “Now, I want you to listen to me, he loved you, baby, he told me all the time, he loved you, you should know that. He would want you to know that.”
For a brief second, I lost it. The walls I had built up so high came shattering down and I lost it. The words I said were barely audible, but I choked out, “I loved him..so much.”
Mama T pulled me closer and assured me that she knew I did and that he had known I did, too. Both sets of grandparents came over and talked about what our wedding would have been like, how we would have met at capital hill and been the liberal powerhouse couple to change the world. How they, too, wanted to see us shine.
His light went out, though, and mine was merely a flicker of what it had been.
I pulled it back together quickly and found my way to a pew near the back, but close enough to the aisle that I could see him. I could look at him. I sat through the entire service and barely blinked. There were tears all around me, but I felt too much that I couldn’t feel anything.
We found our way to the family cemetery, vehicles were lined up as far as you could see. Of course they were. He was loved by so many.
Mama T walked away before they lowered him into the ground, but I couldn’t turn away. It was like I needed to witness it. I needed to let it hurt me, because I deserved the pain.
His little sister fell into my arms and we hung on so tightly to each other as if there were a tornado and we were afraid if we let go, it would tear us away. Little did we know, we we had already been through a tornado and we were far more damaged than we knew.
I promised her that we would carry him with us always, that we would never leave him behind, that he would never be forgotten.
I went to his parent’s vehicle to tell them.. well.. to tell them any words I could possibly form on the subject. I didn’t have the right words to say, but I did utter a promise. A promise that I have to keep.
Mama T put both her hands on my cheeks and kissed my forehead, she pulled me close so she could whisper in my ear, “You do something big with your life.”
She nodded with tears running down her face and let me go.
I didn’t sleep that night. I sat on the rooftop of my house and took in the darkness. The stars. The moon. I knew the sun would come up, it always does, but for the first time, I didn’t want it to. For that would be far too bright and it meant that the universe was going on…without him..
Time does go on, though, and when life throws curve balls, you do your best to swing.
That day taught me the most about love and perhaps it was the cruelest lesson the universe could have taught me at such a young age.
Love is fragile and it can be taken away from us at any moment. The angel of death does not wait for you to tell someone you love them, he is going to take them either way. There are many things that can wait in our lives, but love is not one of them and I learned that too late.
I now know that when you love someone, you tell them, then and there, regardless of what the consequence may be. Regardless of if you’re scared, of if you’re worried, that it may ruin something. You tell them, because nothing is a heavier weight to bear than the unspoken words that consist of, ‘I love you.’
But that was a lesson that I needed to learn. I have the habit of keeping it all inside, locked tightly away behind chains and padlocks.
Now, I utter the words, I love you, so freely to a stone that merely represents where his journey ended, and I wonder, how different could it have been, if I let those words flow freely from my lips rather than holding them inside? That part of my future was ripped away from me, but I cannot gain it back, it is gone, and I must let it be gone.
I loved him. He loved me. What we had was rare and special. I will hold him close to me always.
But I will love again, I know this is true, and that he would want me to. He would want me to live.
His death taught me that you cannot always live in the future, sometimes all you really do have is now. Grasp it and hold on as tightly as you can.
I beg of you, to anyone reading this, do not learn what love taught me the hard way, if you love someone tell them, for you may only have today.