It was cold outside and the rain was coming down, bathing my face with soft gentle drops. I had decided to go for a walk that morning. I was feeling a bit down and needed to clear my head. My walk slowly turned into a run as I remembered the last time I had run. It had been years…
I awoke with a start to the sound of someone knocking on our front door. I lay in bed and listened intently to see who it was. I could hear my mom opening the door and the voice of the visitor. I knew immediately who it was. I squeezed my eyes shut and pulled the covers over my head, willing myself to fall back asleep. I could hear their voices getting closer as they approached the door to my room. “Please fall asleep,” I repeated over and over in my mind, trying desperately to do so. The door to my bedroom opened, but I did not move. I tried desperately to keep my breathing even so they would think I was still asleep.
“Get up and get dressed,” I heard my friend say. I lay motionless, praying they would think I was still asleep and leave. Without warning, the covers were pulled off my head and there stood my friend and my mom. I can still remember vividly, the look in my friends eyes as he said, “You can either get up and get dressed, or I will get you up and dress you myself.” One look into his eyes and I knew he was telling the truth. I turned to look at my mom, with pleading in my eyes, but she just looked at me as if to say, “I’ll let him do it, if that’s what it takes to get you out of bed.” Mortified, by the thought of him actually dressing me, I slowly got out of bed. “We’re going running,” he said as he walked out my door.
Running? Was he serious? That was the last thing I wanted to do that day. What I WANTED was to lay in bed forever and never get out. I was depressed, hurt, confused, angry, sad and so many other emotions. Running was the least of my concerns. But my friend knew all that. That’s why he was standing in my room demanding that I get out of bed.
As I dressed to go running, I thought about what had brought me to that point in my life. My older brother had passed away a few weeks before and I was still dealing with the grief and trying to make sense of it all. I missed him very much and was hurting like I had never hurt before.
My friend had been there with me through it all. I had met him the year before and we had developed a strong friendship with one another. He was there for me the night I discovered that my brother had passed away. He came and picked me up and we drove for hours as we talked, cried, and tried to understand. I could talk to him about anything. He would listen, then listen some more. He had the uncanny knack of knowing when I just needed to talk and when I wanted his advice. He was a true friend.
We did go running that day and he continued to come and get me just about every day, rain or shine. I could barely run a mile in the beginning. I would gasp for air and beg to stop. “No,” he would say. “Keep going. You can do it!” He pushed me. Running was easy for him. He was a marathon runner and could run 10 miles without even breaking a sweat (or so it seemed). I knew running with me was like walking for him. He never complained. He kept with me. Encouraging me and teaching me what he knew. I ran my first 5K that summer and it felt great!
After a few months of running, we found ourselves running side by side one night. It was late, after 10pm. We were running around the track of the local junior high. The weather was perfect. It was warm and the air was still. As we came around the corner of the track, we stopped and stood in awe. There before us, just above the trees, was the most beautiful moon I had ever seen. It was HUGE! I’d never seen anything like it. It looked as though it was close enough to touch. We both stood for a moment and drank in the beautiful sight, commenting on its beauty.
As we started to run again I felt the tears slip down my cheek. I realized in that moment that instead of always looking down, I had looked up. What a glorious sight I saw before me. I realized then, that while my friend had been teaching me to run, it was not to run away from my pain, it was to run towards something better.
I realized in that moment, that life moved on. I could choose to cover my head, and wallow in self-pity, or I could get my butt out of bed, lace up my running shoes, and participate in the journey of life. The sun would continue to rise, and the sun would continue to set. The choice was mine as to whether I would participate in the journey.
My friend taught me some valuable lessons that year. He taught me that you need to pick yourself up when life gets you down. He taught me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, such as; sitting on the beach while tossing bread to the seagulls for the simple pleasure of watching them dive for it; stopping the car by the side of the road, just so you can capture a photo of a coyote foraging in the brush; eating watermelon in the backyard and having seed spitting contests; or simply listening to music for hours on end, while singing at the top of your lungs, just for the fun of it. He taught me to laugh again. He taught me to trust again. Most importantly, he taught me to have HOPE. Hope that life would get better. Hope that the pain would eventually ease. Hope that my heart would heal. Hope that I would feel completely whole again.
My friend saved me that year. He taught me what TRUE friendship is really all about. He knew my pain and knew that I was hurting. He cared enough to be gentle but tough. He wasn’t going to let me sleep my life away, he would do much better than that. He would teach me to LIVE again.
Eight months after my brother passed away my friend moved to Hawaii for a new job. It was with tears in my eyes, and a lump in my throat, that I said goodbye. I still remember the look in his eyes as we parted. It was a sad day for us both. My heart was breaking again for I knew I would miss him greatly. I think, deep down, we both knew that I would be okay, but it was still hard.
We kept in touch for a while, but life moves on. I have only seen my friend twice in the past 27 years but the impact he had on my life has remained. The lessons he taught me were invaluable later on in my life and critical to helping me endure and overcome trials. He will never know how important his friendship was to me during that difficult time of my life.
Friend, if you are reading this, “Thank You.” Thank you for saving me. Thank you for teaching me to laugh again. Thank you for making me feel like I was important, AND that I was worth saving. Thank you for teaching me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. May you know that YOU made a difference in someone’s life. MY LIFE. I will be forever grateful.