Friends, my heart is broken today.
On Tuesday, February 17, a friend of mine since elementary school decided this world would be better off without him. Exactly one month earlier, a college friend of mine made the same choice. The first blow hit me hard; the second one broke my heart.
My friend Stephen was one of those rare creatives whose gifts were unmistakable at a young age. The depth of his creativity was incomprehensible to someone like me who struggles to force words onto a page and can’t even draw a stick figure well. He drew pictures for all of us when we were kids, and he illustrated children’s books for our kids as we grew older. More recently, his Facebook feed contained images of other creations – he crafted everything from wood carvings to gourmet meals.
But Stephen wasn’t just talented. He was brilliant, and considerate, and honorable, and witty. When we were high school seniors, he sat in front of me in English and spent every class period making jokes over his shoulder to make me laugh – I doubt most people knew he was speaking at all. His sense of humor was deep and clever, not superficial or conspicuous. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself; he only wanted to make me laugh.
After college, we found ourselves in the same city, and that’s when I got to know him best. We did things most 20-somethings our age weren’t doing, like renting a VHS of Lawrence of Arabia on the weekend when most people would have been out and about. We went to see Schindler’s List together, and I still remember so many years later how much it moved both of us. After I married Mr. Andi, we grew apart, though we were still in touch occasionally through Facebook (he loved to torment us all by scanning old yearbook photos, posting them on his wall, and tagging us mercilessly, LOL!)
I don’t know why Stephen did what he did. I have been told that he was recently diagnosed with MS, and that scenario makes sense to me. Stephen did for others, not for himself, and I can imagine him mulling over his options and choosing the one he felt would be best for his loved ones. But he also may have felt afraid, or alone, or desperate. I suspect it was a combination of all or some of the above. I’ll never know.
So I am heartbroken today, as are all of us who loved Stephen.
Lately, I feel like my eyes have been opened to how much brokenness is around us every day. So many of us are just doing our best to hold it all together, to love and be loved, and to find meaning in what sometimes feels like an unending journey of the mundane. Even when we are able to see past our small circle to the pain and suffering that other people are going through, we don’t always have the energy ourselves to reach out and say I SEE YOU and YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Today, I want every one of you out there who are hurting, or struggling, or feel alone or desperate, every one of you who looks around and sees only closed doors with no way out, every one of you who feels like you aren’t making a difference in the world to know this:
You are not alone.
You are making a difference.
You are important.
You are loved.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” I’m not one to argue with a woman who’ll likely be canonized a saint, but I would like to paraphrase her in my own way: The small things that we do with great love are great things.