We became friends in Kansas City when I was 16. My first time to get drunk was with him, we drank Jack Daniels in the back of his pickup. He was just a couple years older than me. We cut our teeth together as young men. Learning about the world and where we fit in. Learning about women and what we could get away with. Breaking the law and laughing our asses off. Getting in fights and celebrating or consoling each other for the lumps we'd given and taken. He was and is a bright light in my life, a source of inspiration and encouragement. It didn't matter what we were doing, it mattered that we were there for each other.
As it does, life moved us in different directions. I moved to Texas and would catch him on every return trip to Kansas City. He even came to Texas once to visit with my sister and me. He was the kind of friend, it didn't matter how long it'd been since we talked, we would pick up right where we left off every time. We'd seen each other grow through so many different stages that we knew each other in an essential and intimate way. He knew my soul, and I knew his. And there was only love there.
A year ago Jeremy left earth on his own terms. I was at work wrapping up another day at the office when I found out from one of his family members on Facebook. I ran out the back door and into the parking lot to weep, shaking and unsure about anything. I spent the evening outside in nature. Time with the trees and streams feels like being held by someone that doesn't want anything from me, so I felt supported but free to process without having to explain myself. I cried and journaled and tried to make sense of things. I couldn't help but to wonder, is there something I could have done? Is there something I didn't say that might have given him what he needed?
The next day those same questions were heavy on my mind. I suddenly remembered that he and I had been messaging on Facebook just a couple of months prior. I opened up FB to look back through our message thread and something incredible happened. I was able to find some peace and even joy amidst the grief. He was going through a rough time then, and I had encouraged him and just loved on him. I didn't hold back my honest thoughts, but I didn't hold back the love either. I didn't give him advice, or tell him he should be this way or that way, I just loved on him and gave him space to do what he needed. Upon reading our message thread, I felt a sense of completion. I'd said everything I could have. Still deeply heartbroken, I was free to grieve as the questions around what could I have done fell away.
The lesson here for me is twofold. First, I need to complete my relationships. Meaning to leave nothing unsaid. To make sure that the people I love know damn well that I love them! I need to feel complete with each interaction I have because that might be the last before one of us goes. And second, I can only do that if I am being true, sincere, and authentic. There's no way to be complete with someone unless they get the real from me. Otherwise the chance is too great that something gets left unresolved.
This post is intended to be three things. A goodbye memorial to a cherished friend, a chance for others who've experienced something similar to relate, and an opportunity for someone to learn this lesson if they haven't already: complete your relationships each day by being true to yourself as best as you can.