We only met less than a year ago, but we both knew instinctively that we were “soul friends.” We just clicked instantly. I tell you that only to illustrate to you how important he is to me. He’s like the brother I never had – I consider him family. And apparently he is adored by many people, because it would take you days to read all the outpourings of love and prayers and support on his Facebook page. He undoubtedly makes a positive impact on everyone he meets.
In addition to him, I have a lot of Facebook friends who are going through really hard times. One’s daughter got killed in a car accident last year. Another one’s 2-year old daughter has a brain tumor. And another one has a rare disease called gastroparesis where she can’t eat any food (she is tube-fed) and has to fight to live every day. I could go on and on, because these are just a few of them.
When going through hard times, we need people to show us empathy. As my students would probably tell you, that is one of the common themes I preach in my classroom on a regular basis. Empathy: The ability to feel what another person feels…or at least to imagine it at a very deep level…to “walk in their shoes.” I always considered myself to be a very empathetic person. I can usually see other people’s points of view very easily – even when others can’t. However, my friend's near-death experience has left me wondering if I really, truly, feel empathy like I should.
Sure, I feel absolutely awful for all my Facebook friends I just mentioned. I wish I could swoop in and take away their pain. But it wasn’t until Thursday night when I was convinced that I had lost my friend so suddenly that I really, really, understood emotional pain. Yes, people I love have died before. My own dad passed away about 6 years ago. It was sad and heart-wrenching, but it was also his time. He had lived a full, good, long life (although not as long as we all would have wanted, of course). But my friend is only 43. He has a 16-year-old daughter. He has a wife. He is a vital part of a company whose mission is to help people. He still has a lot of light to spread around the world in this life. And he is a constant presence in my life. To lose someone so young – and so suddenly – just sent me into a tailspin.
The night I learned he was fighting for his life, I called my mom and she said, “Carol, there’s a spiritual reason this is happening. Not only for you, but for everyone. You just need to figure out what it is.”
I think it is to teach all of us how precious people are and how fragile life is. Yes, I know that sounds cliché. I know we all say we know that. I was convinced that I did. But do we really? Why does it take tragedy for human beings to appreciate all they have? Why is it so hard to truly feel empathy for others’ hard times until something similar happens to us? It’s something I want you to think about this week – I know I will.
I have been thanking God that he is alive. However, he still has a really long way to go before he has recovered. But considering that he was at death’s door a few days ago, well, this is a miracle.
Please hug your friends, family, children, and other loved ones tightly and tell them that you love them. You just never know when it might be the last time you get the chance to do it. I thought I understood that, but apparently I didn’t understand it at a deep enough level. And please also say a prayer for my friend. He is truly one of the most kind, generous, amazing human beings I have ever met. The world still needs him. Thank you!
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