“Sometimes an ending can be an origin.”
I heard that quote recently and it struck through my heart like an arrow of steel. Because I could recognize the truth in it like an old familiar friend.
You see, life never goes quite the way we plan it in our head. Sure, we can set stuff down on paper, or even chisel it into stone. But still when we look back at the turns along the way, we can see clearly where we ventured a good distance from the path intended in our minds.
I told my fiancé once that I would most certainly die if he ever died. I didn’t just say it to be cheesy. I truly could not imagine taking one single solitary step through this journey without him by my side. It was like I had walked in shadows and he had strolled through carrying the sun in his hands. Who wants to go back to the shadows? I meant it when I said it.
But then a few months later he unexpectedly died.
And guess what?
I’m still here.
That felt like a giant betrayal at first. I walked around for many months with a major weight of guilt on my heart. Ihad not kept my word. I had continued to exist. Had taken steps forward. Was leaving him behind. I played old conversations over and over in my head. I forced my mind to tell me every single inch of his body, of his face…..so afraid one day I would forget his face, the crinkles around his eyes when he smiled, the curve of his hand in mine, the scar on his eyebrow……I stayed stuck because it was the closest I could come to keeping my promise. (I couldn’t keep my promise to him, not with my sons to stay here for.)
But gradually I began to realize….
He wouldn’t have wanted this. He always believed in my strength even when I doubted myself. How dare I let him down this way?
So, I made a very purposeful decision to begin to make a difference in this world. To honor his memory with my living.
It started as a month long challengeto myself. I wrote about it on FB one day. (You can find it in my notes section on my personal page.) I would do one small random act of kindness each day. A sort of human-experiment, if you will.
The funny thing is, I think it changed MY heart, and touched me, more than any of the seemingly-small gestures changed and touched anyone else.
I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I started to see how much I truly had to offer. I came to a startling realization that I MATTERED. Just a simple hug or encouraging letter or silly picture posted to someones wall on FB…..just the time taken to say “I care.” ….it turns out we as people don’t require much more than this.
Someone asked me recently WHY do I bother helping others? Why doI take the time? Why do I care so deeply? Why shed tears for people I don’t know? Why pray so hard for people I will probably never meet?
Well, you see, my fiancé, who passed away? Well, when I met him he was homeless. Had been for many months. He was a severe alcoholic. Would lose touch with his family for such long spans of time that they would scan the internet in fear of stumbling across some death notice of him at worst. I gave him a place to live at first. Opened my home. Offered him meals. Washed his clothes. Bought him soap and deodorant and boxers. The simple gesture turned into a friendship which evolved into a relationship which eventually did lead to my suffering (and surviving) the most devastating loss of my life. BUT…..what if? What if I hadn’t offered him that kindness in the first place?
I believe , it was inevitable that he would pass away. I believe in fate and I believe he was led into my life for a reason. If I had turned away, he would have died alone. His family may not have found out about it for many months…if ever. (It was due to my presence that he healed his relationship with his father and began talking to both of his parents regularly on the phone. In fact, he spoke with his father for the last time the day he died.) He carried no form of identification in his wallet. All he had in his wallet were photos of myself and the boys, and a love note I had written him. It is because of the kindness I lent to him in the first place that led to the point where I travelled to Ohio from NC to sit in his mothers dining room and fill his family in on his life over the past few years, and give them some sense of completion and closure and peace. It is a gift I am so utterly grateful to have been able to give. Because of small kindness that began that portion of my journey with Ken, he died knowing he was loved. Ken had a very bad sense of self…..he said to me just a couple of weeks before he died, that he figured if he died no one would bother coming to his funeral. It breaks my heart to know he felt that way. But the day he died…..my boys covered him with kisses and hugs. One of them told him he was the “best Daddy ever.” as he walked out that door. I literally jumped up in his arms, wrapped myself around him, and kissed him goodbye. I had hidden little love notes all around the house a week earlier. (96 of them) and he had found about half of them. After he died I kept finding them everywhere. The last text I sent him, about 10 minutes before his death said “I love you.” You see? He was misplaced, lost and alone when I first met him. And sure, I could have saved myself some heartache if I had walked on by. But because I didn’t…. Because I took the time to CARE, he left this earth knowing he mattered, he was loved, he MEANT SOMETHING.
So, the next time you ask me why I work so hard to make a difference, to help a person, to donate a thing or some time, why I give unconditionally of myself, why I love so fully, even if it means I get hurt a bit in the process? My answer is this:
Because you just never know. You never know until you look back, what direction life can spin you in and where you may end up landing. I wouldn’t change a THING if I could. Id walk straight through that hell fire of grief and shadows all over again tomorrow if it meant he died knowing he was loved. I’d do it for anyone.
Part of a poem by Shane Koyscrow reads:
“How can the sacrifice of faith belong to anything less than the virtue it takes to break ones own heart to ease another’s descent into madness? How can anyone dismiss love as if it wasn’t the only reason to risk EVERYTHING, knowing full well you can’t bring them back?”