The word ‘love’ is so bandied about today, but love is the most powerful energy in the world. It’s so important to unleash it. To be present to the dignity of the forgotten, to recognize the beauty of the scarred and maimed, draws forth their goodness and self-respect in a way that nothing else can. — Sister Helen Prejean. IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE


Recently, a young man I love experienced the tragic and unexpected loss of a close friend. This is the first time something like this has happened to him. I have three times as many years as he does and many such losses on my dance card. It never gets easier, but at least I knew what to say to him, at least I could tell him with absolute surety that some things never make sense, but they teach us how to love more deeply and how enduring love really is.

In the wake of his loss, I have been thinking of losses I have weathered: the young soldier whose name I wore on a POW bracelet in the 70’s until the bracelet fell off my wrist; the olive-skinned girl in 10th grade who one day stopped coming to class; dear friends lost before their time to the ravages of disease or accident and those lost to the ferment of time. As I recall their lives, I review my own: Was I kind enough? Did I dwell too long on their idiocsyncrasies? Did I forgive them their humanity even when they could not forgive me mine? How do I carry them in my heart, the heart that remains?

What I know for certain as a result of my losses is there is a greater need for kindness, a greater need to accept what is different about us, a greater need to let go of the pettiness and prejudice and pride and busyness that separates us from one another, that separates one heart from the other. This is especially hard to do when other losses–financial and professional, loss of the future we hoped for and the past that used to be–weigh heavy on our minds.

My young friend did a very brave and very kind thing, I thought, when he wrote a tribute to his lost friend on his Facebook page. He put his heart on the line in a few short, raw, elegant phrases for all to see. It was a tribute to both boys, one gone, one–perhaps–a little more found; an act of kindness that did not separate one heart from another.

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