Heavy with love, with guilt, with regret, with happiness.
A male friend is terminally ill. At the hospital a few days ago, I sat all day at the foot of his bed amidst beeping machines and tubing and needles and the detritus of modern medicine. We whispered to each other, gaining mutual comfort by reminding ourselves of our connection through childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and careening through careers and marriages. We talked of the good times and the disasters that befell us. We talked about my longstanding marriage and children and his brief trainwreck of a marriage. We talked of significant things and frivolous things. We talked about career worries and how he regrets not taking the path less travelled. As long as I have known him since the age of ten, he had secretly wanted to do something with his innate artistic ability. Instead he became a physician... a healer. Ironic though, a physician who cannot save himself now. We laughed a bit and also cried. We cried a lot actually. He said that he had end of life issues to resolve and I had to know something. He told me that he has been in love with me for years, decades even.
I am left a confused mass of feelings. Rib crushing emotion that does not allow me to process except the basics.
Is regret allowed? My regret for crossed signals in my heady rush to embrace life as a young adult. My regret for not stopping long enough to hear what my gut was saying to me. For not being there when he needed to be understood by me. My regret that he never said out loud what needed to be when the time was right. My regret for thinking that I knew him, when I did not. My regrets for... I am not even sure what the regrets are for anymore.
Wondering with curiousity at what might have been. Is this even allowed?
What is allowed? Now. Today and here as I watch his tenous hold on life becoming weaker; as he deals with unending pain. His death is hastening as he is no longer accepting treatment.
In the most fundamental of ways I never understood him. My best friend but I did not know him. Is regret allowed for not really knowing him?
Is telling the husband about this new knowledge allowed? To what end?
Is guilt allowed for wanting to return the same measure of love while he is still here. But to what end?
However yesterday surrounded by the glow and warmth of friends and family as we enjoyed a celebration valentines dinner... my children by my knee and the husbands arm around my shoulders, I smiled. I was surrounded and carried aloft by so much love, even his. Yes, even his. I will accept the secret burden of his love because because it is his gift to give me. My new secret love. My best friend who I will have to part with soon.
Dense and heavy. His love. His gift to me.