An old friend of mine died yesterday. Actually, Brian was one of my first boyfriends and today, I’m thankful for memories that come from days when life was a little more innocent.
Brian had the tenderest heart of anyone I’ve ever known, but he hated that people might know that, so he covered it up. He wore his hair long, trying to cover his eyes. He tried to be tough … and failed miserably in so many ways, because he was such a good kid. He hung out with the tough kids, but when he was at my house, he was sweet and polite and kind and emotional at just the right times.
My mother saw his heart too and even though she and Dad thought I was too young to date (oh, there were more than a few arguments in the house about that), she knew that Brian would never hurt me or do anything that would get us into too much trouble. She loved him … because of that sweet heart.
That summer we were going together, Mom and Dad left for a week. A friend stayed with us in the evenings, but all of a sudden I had a lot of freedom and Brian could be in the house. Oh, I’m sure there were rules and we weren’t supposed to be doing that, but we did. The funny thing is that the only illicit activity happening was the fact that Brian brought over a stack of comedy records and for the first time in my sheltered life, I was exposed to Cheech and Chong, George Carlin, Bill Cosby and others. Brian and I sat on the settee in the living room, holding hands … nothing more, while we listened to those records and talked for hours. My goodness, we talked. It was with Brian that I got into the worst trouble with Mom for being on the phone for hours.
We broke up at some point and life moved on … into high school. And all of a sudden, we were going out again. And then one night, in the back of his parent’s station wagon, on the way home from a Holy Spirit Conference weekend in Des Moines, he kissed me. It was sweet, tentative and full of his heart. That’s as far as things ever went between me and Brian. Oh, we kissed a lot, but we were still pretty young and innocent and it was enough.
Life changed and we both moved on again, friends but never close. Graduation and college, we moved away from Sigourney and I lost contact with him. I knew life had been hard for him. He did it to himself. You can’t excuse the choices a person makes, but I know that for Brian, that very tender heart of his got in his way over and over again. He was either putting it in the hands of people who didn’t know what to do with it or he was trying to cover it up so no one knew it even existed.
I didn’t expect to ever see him again except maybe from a distance at a reunion or something. Our lives had diverged so much that there was no reason.
Until my father died. After the funeral, I was downstairs in the church greeting old friends and family when I looked up and there was Brian. He’d come alone to see me … to tell me what my family had meant to him … to tell me that he still cared for me … for us … that we’d been such an immense part of his life and his heart. Of all the hundreds of kids that my father had touched throughout his life, it was Brian who showed up that day. Alone. He’d driven his motorcycle up from Des Moines to make sure I was okay. He still tried to be tough – he dressed in jeans – hunched in on himself – dark and brooding, his face lined from years of a hard life, and he roared away on his motorcycle – but his beautiful heart is what I will always remember.
Today I pray that his soul has finally found comfort and peace and that his heart has found where it belongs … in the palm of God’s hand.