Your Heart

I Love You, I Love You, I LOVE YOU.

By January 26, 2016 1

Weeks ago, I sat across an office table from my ex-boyfriend.

I hadn’t seen him in a few years, and so we were doing the obligatory catching up regarding where’d we been, where we were going, when the conversation pivoted toward our respective friends. Friends always exist as the collateral damage of every relationship’s ending, right? You can no longer speak to his friends, he can no longer talk to yours.

This conversational shift brought him to a sudden “OMG” moment, regarding childhood friend Josh. I know Josh as the guy that my ex furiously texts all day Sunday to review their fantasy football stats and scores. I know Josh as the guy that I sat next to and danced alongside with at a wedding not too long ago. I know Josh as a family man, with a beautiful wife and child.

“Josh is dead— Josh died”, he flatlined to me.

And with that I was vacuumed into a rapid tide of emotions.

Shock first, because I didn’t understand the what. I didn’t understand the when or how—it all just seemed to me an implausibility. Josh was in his thirties, what could have possibly gone wrong? The answer did little but provide further tremor;

“Josh fell”, he informed me.

It had been a football Sunday and Josh was walking down the stairs leading into his basement.  He miscalculated a step, sustained a brain injury, and never awoke again.

His wife was pregnant with his second child.

I felt anger second—however irrational it may have been— that my ex hadn’t informed me sooner. Of course I understood this was his childhood friend, not mine. Yes of course I understood that we had broken up and I moved out, but this? This was different. This felt like something he should have told me.

Because I would have done something, anything.

He assured me that he almost did, but then he didn’t, and I could see the hurt in his face. All I could do was look back at him, as a deep, associative sorrow began to cloud my vision.

We soon parted ways, but not before he provided me with the family’s GoFundMe Page, as I insisted upon making a donation.

Later that night I found myself scrolling through that page, reading through each and every comment and contribution. I perused somewhat stoically, as I imagined myself a fraud against the suffering of those in his immediate circles. There were north of 70,000 dollars, and 800 notes collected, all of the words so kind. And yet I sat there, Candace the blogger, unable to form any words of my own.

I didn’t know how much to give, I didn’t know what else to say. I honestly just didn’t know.

I then quickly switched my browser over to Facebook at my crushing realization that,

I’m friends with Josh of Facebook! How had I completely missed this news?

But there it was, on his personal wall, a memorial of heartfelt messages and images with the fatal  “Rest In Peace” acronym tacked above them. This was somehow the most vital piece of evidence I needed to confirm to myself that yes—Josh Abrams was in fact dead, and everyone in the entire world knew it, but me.

And I was coming up empty on just how to think or feel about it.

So I did nothing, except store the unpleasant information in the back of my mind, not knowing to what extent it had affected me, until today.

Because yesterday I was deeply disturbed—way more so than the actual situation precipitated— when my girlfriend sat telling me that she loved her new boyfriend. In fact she “loved him so much”, but she didn’t want to tell him first. She felt it was appropriate for the relationship to progress (they had only just begun dating, after all), to a later time before the word “love” was exchanged. She had also felt, (and this one threw me for an are-women-even-allowed-to-vote, emotion), that he should tell her first.

Was I upset with her for her decision?—no. Everyone has a right to make their own, and quite frankly, she was likely rehearsing what had been instilled in her from the time she was a little girl. Dating etiquette: an arbitrary set of rules and timelines, decided upon perhaps by the glossy pages of those Cosmopolitan magazines; the ones we sat thumbing through in every waiting room, growing up, circling A through D as our responses to the endless quizzes meant to determine whether or not our personalities would lead us to marry Justin Timberlake (yay!), or the Fred Durst (less yay).

So no, my girlfriend wasn’t exactly breaking the internet with her elementary commentary regarding “tradition” and “waiting on the man to say it first”, and yet the timing of this declaration had struck a nerve within me.

It was my newly formed Josh-nerve and the wisdom that it carried with it that although it may sound morbid, we are all dying. Moment my moment, minute my minute, we are all inching toward an unspecified date and time, and so why wait, ever? We owe it to ourselves to live openly, fearlessly, and loudly—without exception for baseless paradigms.

Josh’s tragedy awoke me from the reverie. It shattered my debilitating illusion that each and every one of us is going to live to be 102. It encouraged me to be brave.

Because (and I’ll say it again in case you are just tuning in), we are all dying.

There can be tremendous beauty in our understanding of this; in the resulting need to exact what we feel minute by minute, uninhibited by the opinions and thoughts of others.

We are not promised the next ten years, we are not promised the next ten days—and as I sit typing this in the midst of a terrifying winter blizzard, I am strangely in tune with the fact that I am not even guaranteed the next ten minutes.

And so suddenly, I love.

I’m seeing everyone and everything with a fresh pair of eyes, and am obsessing over the minute details.

I love the way one of my girlfriends twirls her hair mindlessly when she’s deep in thought writing.

I love the way my sister begins laughing at her own jokes, a few moments short of delivering the punch line.

I love the impossible shade of blue my crush’s eyes take when I’ve said something meant to drive him over the edge of desire.

I LOVE—not like.

And I’m not at all afraid to say it.

I’m dying.