“What you are looking for, is what is looking.” – St. Francis of Assisi
Four years ago, we lost my brother’s best friend, Shane.
Shane was…something special. Precocious. Prodigal. I suppose it was hard to love him, but it was equally hard not to love him.
And just like that legendary, wayward son’s, his homecoming was a celebration of life.
Strangely enough, I had already had a trip to California planned for the weekend of Shane’s funeral. It was as if the whole thing was pre-ordained.
My brother and Shane had gone through their addictions together; had tried to get sober together. Sobriety had stuck with Matthew; it seemed to be just sticking for Shane…and then not. So after Shane’s funeral, I went to Jade’s house, where she fed me, and we talked, and I stood in the sunlight in her driveway and made phone calls I didn’t want to make.
And now, my brother has lived without his best friend for four years, and I talked to mine just this morning. Jade and I have shared the most meaningful moments of our lives. We were attendants in and gave speeches at each other’s weddings for the marriages that didn’t quite work out. We’ve travelled to other countries, and fought over big and little things, and together have dipped our feet in the North Sea at the top of Scandinavia, and the Pacific Ocean at the bottom of Australia.
It struck me that Matthew would never have those things. That Shane would never give a silly toast at Matthew’s wedding. The thought rattled me.
I love you, and I’m so proud of you, I messaged my brother, suddenly, because what else is there? How else does one fill in that vast cavern of grief — that sinkhole — that just keeps eating up everything that comes near its gaping maw? You fill it and you fill it, and you put up those orange cones around it, but the land is always a little unstable around the edges.
He told me how he was remembering his best friend; how he’d gone to lunch with Shane’s cousin; how they’d reminisced. And I told him that, on Mother’s Day, I’d been flipping through albums to try to find a picture of our mother to post on Facebook, and instead the book had fallen open to a photo of Shane. I had told my mother, and she had been the one to remind me about the timing.
It was like he was stopping by to say “hi,” I said.
It’s no coincidence, he replied.
I suppose what I am saying is that I think it is relatively easy to love someone who is easy to love — who is perfect, and clean, and sober, and who loves you back most of the time. It is harder to love someone who goes away; who runs; who hides; who keeps you at a distance. It breaks and tears and batters you to watch someone suffer…and to keep loving in your suffering.
So since I am a woman who loves symbols and signs, I suppose that finding that photo at precisely the moment I found it reminded me of how important it is to keep loving, under even the most challenging, improbable, fucked-up, and awful of circumstances. Keep loving even in the face of loss. Keep loving even when the sides are caving in, and the memories make it hard, and the sinkhole is swallowing you up.
Just keep loving. Because you are loved.