love letters

My laptop was laying on the coffee table tonight so I picked it up and started snooping through old files thinking I would get rid of some stuff I don’t need — which, if you know me, really means I didn’t get rid of anything and nor did I have any real intention of doing so.

I came across a letter I had written for a friend. Not just any letter. The letter he asked me to help him write to his wife at the end of his life, when he could no longer put pen to paper or even make sense of his thoughts some days because of the side effects of rapidly-progressing liver disease.

We put that letter together, in his words, through phone calls and text messages mostly, and a couple of hospital visits. He would often call me on Sunday afternoons from the hospital once his wife had gone home for the day and I’d sit out in the sunshine on our patio and record his favourite memories of times with her, what he loved most about her, the secret things he carried in his heart, and even the things he wanted her to notice once he was gone. Those would be his signs to her, he said.

He expressed his regrets to her, but the greatest sentiment expressed in that letter was gratitude. He thanked her for loving him. For the comfort and care that carried him through the darkest moments with his disease. For pushing him through so many days when he really didn’t feel he had any more left in him to give.

It was, and is still, the most beautiful thing. All of that happened sometime around August of 2017. And he died that November. He was only 49.

I re-read that letter tonight and marvelled over the gift it was — to me. To be allowed into his deepest, darkest, wonderful heart. It was the first time I’d ever written anything like that. And I felt the same rush of honour reading it that I felt the day he asked me to help him write it.

It was one of those sunny summer afternoons and he called from his hospital bed and asked if I was sitting down. He said he wasn’t ready to give in but he was beginning to embrace his fragility and he knew he couldn’t go on much longer the way he was. He wanted to be prepared, he said. And this would help him find peace. Would I help him do this one last thing?

With more than 30 years of history behind us — full of fast cars, parties, camping trips, rock concerts and one of the world’s most phenomenally-engineered beer bottle pyramids — we had travelled so far together. He was the best man in our wedding, and he always remained Ron’s best friend. They stood together through thick and thin until the day he died. He was always the one holding the catcher’s mitt when life threw its curve balls. He was the first person there when my brother died and when our kids were born. We endured parents with cancer together. And, there was just no way I was gonna let him down on this.

I could never have imagined that this boy I’d met when I was 16 would one day allow me such a profound privilege. Over this past couple of years, Brad was the first in what has become a string of losses of people I hold so close to my heart. Thinking about it now, his death reminds me how singular loss is — one beloved at a time.

So, it was a true pleasure to find that note tonight. Like, maybe he wanted me to find it because he wanted me to know that he’s still with me when I see and experience those things he said would be reminders of him — classic motorcycles, old Quebec City, cold beers on a summer Sunday afternoon. Or, maybe he knows how stuck in my head I’ve been lately and so he gave me a shove to get words onto the page again.

Whatever the reason is, I love remembering you, Brad. I love that you let me do that for you. Though your body is gone, I remember your heart, my friend. Always.

1 thought on “love letters”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s