In less than twenty-four hours, I will be at the cemetery visiting the grave of one of my dearest friends.
He isn't dead yet. In fact, he's the one who is taking me there.
I was looking earlier today for a poem to submit to Poetry Thursday – this week's assignment being to share a line in a poem that you love. The line I have never been able to get out of my head since being introduced to David Whyte's poetry is the last line in "Self-Portrait," excerpted below:
… I want to know
if you are willing
to live day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have been told in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.
It has been a very long road to arrive at this place in our friendship, where he can willingly take me and I will willingly go to sit upon his grave and face the full impact of the reality that when death finally comes, he will be ready to welcome it. Michael is a paradox in that way. You would be lucky to meet someone who works harder at staying alive and vital and healthy than he does. The challenges facing a 31-year quadriplegic are more than an able-bodied person can comprehend, should they even want to try. Somehow, Michael manages to meet every single obstacle with a sense of humor and a grace which is absolutely humbling. I don't know which is the bigger miracle, that his body has lasted this long or that his spirit was never broken.
You could understand why I would want a person of this caliber to remain in my life for many years to come. He's taught this hot-headed Greek more than a few lessons over the past sixteen years in patience, compassion, flow, remaining present, taking responsibility for my shit, and facing the fact that we are all transitory here.
He's been trying to get me to face the reality of death for a while now and I have kicked and screamed and writhed in pain and tried everything I could think of to make his life easier so he'd want to stay. I thought with enough love and enough protection, somehow I could buy time. Turns out, time is not for sale.
What I thought was motivated by a desire to help him was, in the end, one desperate attempt after another to get someone to take the cup from my lips. I was not ready to face the "bitter unwanted passion of my sure defeat."
I have finally realized, after deep, deep reflection that my refusing to let go was ultimately harmful to him. He is facing the last chapter of his life, whether that chapter lasts for a few weeks, or months, or years. That's a huge chapter and the last thing he needs is to have to continually deal with my trying to rewrite it. He's given up so much that you and I take for granted already. And of course, he's going to be giving up everything, just like you and I will have to, someday. While he has been very openly appreciative of ways I have tried to make his life easier and knows that it is all done out of love, the truth is that parading one temptation to stay after another when he is trying to say his goodbyes is actually a pretty cruel and selfish thing to do.
I realize now there is a world of difference between being good to someone and being good for them.
I want to be both.
So, I am stepping up and letting go of my self-deception and looking honestly at myself and my willingness to live with the consequence of love.
And with the strength of true friendship between us, I know now that I am willing. I'm walking open-eyed into that place where even the gods speak of God.
There is no place I would rather be.
Send some loving energy out to a couple old river rats, if you have a mind to.