I'm writing you tonight from my hotel room in Seattle – en route to a four-night stay in Alaska. I hadn't really given any thought to what I was going to write today for this post, as I've spent the better part of the day running around like crazy. It could have been about the usual stuff of Valentine's Day... like how bitchy I've been all week leading up to today. Or how I went into Walgreens yesterday for some picture hanging wire and was assaulted by the pink and red décor that vomited all over the store interior. Or about how sad I was when I woke up this morning or how hard I've tried to stay off of Facebook all day.
I am lucky that I've spent most of today at the airport, lugging around an ungodly amount of camera gear and luggage. After all, this trip is with my mother-in-law and her mother... which is very sacred to me. Two generations of his family and me. Our “Valentine's Dinner” was not exactly fancy. Some cheese and fruit in a tiny cardboard container with a plastic cup of white wine – some 30,000 ft in the air halfway between Texas and Washington. But that suited me just fine, nothing traditional.
But what I really wanted to share is what my evening was about. And just why I am up at 3am Texas time still writing this. Once we finally got into our hotel room and settled in, I called one of my closest friends. It wasn't to share the usual laughter or the depression of the day's events. It wasn't for me to cry about how much I miss my late-fiance. But instead, she opened up to me about some very deep emotional stuff that she has been burying from most everyone in her life for a long time now. So much so that it has led to some very dark thoughts.
As she shared, I remained solid and unwavering. I listened to everything she had to say, and I assured her that all her feelings – even the suicidal thoughts – were okay. I mean hell, if anyone understands what it's like to not want to live anymore, it's widowed people – am I right?
I did not judge her. I did not try to fix her. I just loved her. And reminded her very strongly that no darkness inside her could be enough to chase me away. I will be here always to sit next to her in there as long as we need to until we can find that first pinprick of light together. And so we sat, together, for over an hour... until I began to hear the tone in her voice shift ever so slightly. Until I began to hear the weight in her voice just a hair lighter than before. Even manged to make her laugh a few times in there too.
After we got off the phone, I hopped in the shower and kept thinking of it all. I was so surprised at how calm I was. How unshakable my dedication was to this friend. And how well I was able to listen and make them feel safe and heard. The person I was before I met My late-fiance could have never done this. The girl I was then would have been so scared by the vulnerability of the situation that she wouldn't have been able to hear that friend. The person I was before Drew died did not have enough of her own darkness to be able to strut into someone else's so fearlessly either.
I started to realize... Drew was the first person in my life to model for me that kind of love. Real and deep and unconditional love. Always he was solid, and reliable, and steadfast as a friend. And over time, without my knowing it, I began to infuse those same qualities in myself. This happened even more so after his death - when others sat with me in my darkness, I learned again how to better do it.
And suddenly tonight, I realized that perhaps I have more of his qualities in me now than I ever knew. And I saw what a truly vital gift he gave me in his death. I chose the possibility of pain for the privilege to love. It did not matter that I could be hurt if this dear friend one day chooses to end her life. Because loving her matters more. Because she matters that much. And because of his life, and his death, I was able to be there for her in a way no one else has been able to.
So this Valentine's Day for me was not about the chocolates or the flowers I didn't get. Or the person who wasn't here to hold or kiss. Yes, those things were there – and they were sad. But more so, it was about being able to give someone real love – deep, unconditional, open-hearted love – and meet them in their most vulnerable and fearful place. This year, Valentine's Day was not about what I do not have, but about what I have to give still. It was about Brave Love.