When you know that no words can adequately capture the depths of your feelings or the beauty of the memories you have about a person who has passed, what is the best thing to do when trying to figure out how to express your thoughts?
In my case, I needed to wait for a few days to share and express my thoughts until I could string some memories and thoughts together of a good friend who passed on September 9th. (For the purposes of anonymity in this blog post, I will simply refer to this person as” friend”) I can’t remember the first interaction I had with my friend, but I know that I had known him from the day I was given the gift of sobriety on July 8th, 2001. My friend sat in a meeting with what seemed like a million years sober to a newcomer such as myself. I remember him speaking in the meeting through the haze and anger of my newness, but cannot remember the words he spoke. What I remember is his presence.
This presence he carried brought comfort and peace to situations. I had felt it every time I was around him for even just a few minutes. I was a fearful person when I got sober, but my friend’s presence began to make me feel a little more safe. He was always there. I could always count on him to be there. I knew he would tell me what me what I NEEDED to hear and though the truth hurt sometimes, his love shone through the words and I knew that he had my best interest at heart.
And he didn’t stop at just being present for the business of recovery…no, this was a man who was invested in relationships! My friend took the business of recovery seriously, and this showed as he made people his priority. It was so obvious to those who knew him. There was never a day that I wondered where I stood with him. I knew that my friend was there for me 100% and there were no conditions on this relationship. He didn’t require that I did or said the right things. He didn’t require perfection or put parameters on my behavior. When I needed help, he did not hesitate. There was one occasion where he heard I needed help and all he asked in return was that I pay it forward. This was truly a man who loved without strings attached.
My friend shared his heart with those he met, for better or for worse. His honesty was admirable and his humility was a trait I strove to acquire. Further adding to this amazing man’s character was that he was totally hysterical, fun and spontaneous, and had one of the meanest games of 1:00am poker of anyone I knew! During all the fun, he was always quick to show wisdom to those of us who didn’t know much…all the while, laughing and letting us know he was just as human as we were.
I know that when I came into my recovery, I was a lost little “kid” at 27 years old. There were many men and women around me, who I am sure would say the same. In a group where “kids” are many, my friend demonstrated the biggest father’s heart of anyone I had the experience of knowing up to that point. Not only did he demonstrate this fatherly type of love to me by supporting me, encouraging me, and helping me out of emotional pits, but I watched as he shared his "father’s heart” with anyone and everyone else in need this type of love who crossed his path. Even after I left my home in Champaign-Urbana, my friend's support consistently remained through my own transition, growing pains, and grieft due to losses I faced after I left. It meant so very much to me that every time I visited, my friend ALWAYS made time to spend with me. I am so grateful that I was able to visit with him in July. It was a bittersweet honor to have been there with him on his last day with us and the sight of his family and closest friends surrounding him will forever be in my memory.
It is so rare to meet men like my friend…I am blessed to have known someone like him in my lifetime. I have seen written social media comments from many of my friends who have told me how much this man’s encouragement to me has impacted them, and these are people who don’t even know him. What a great legacy this man has left to the world. For the rest of my life, I will always talk fondly of this man who loved without strings attached. Thank you Father God, that you allowed me the privilege to know him.“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4