It is heartbreaking to see some people. Some people who have not grown past where they were before. Not in a contented way, but in an endless despairing downward spiral type of way. Once I recognized someone and crossed the street so they wouldn't see me. I could see from the way they looked, and walked, from the way their shoulders slumped and their head tilted forward and they muttered to themselves that life had not been kind to them, and I did not want to know just how unkind so I crossed over before they recognized me. I am ashamed of that moment. There was the friend whose life is falling apart, who clung to me sobbing as I made my way out of her house because I had a plane to catch, who didn't want me to leave. Her children have become sweeter and hugged me a long time as her husband drunkenly hugged everyone and I felt helpless and unspeakable sadness, and stupid for not seeing sooner what was going on, and then anger at her for not telling me, and then just love, but I still had to go, breathing prayers and what assurances I could as I went. I carry them in my heart still.
And now I am in the close bosom of dear friends and I feel hugged and loved and wrapped up in their gifts of kindness in ways that are often beyond family ties. Because for them it's voluntary love. It's the love of true family, of people whose hearts are knit together in spirit and in truth, in our common story of experiencing unconditional love and passing it along, of knowing and being known, of forgiving and being forgiven, of love that sees the weakness and helps to carry one through it, that blesses the strengths, that rejoices in what is praiseworthy, and believes and hopes all things. This place is the fruit of that kind of love set free and it is good, oh so good to be here.