"Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation." (Kahlil Gibran)
Today I said goodbye to a friend.
In many ways, our goodbye was unexpected. I didn't wake up this morning, knowing it would be the last time I would see you, and I know I wouldn't have ever chosen to be the one to say "It's time we parted". You were always braver than me.
But you knew it was time. You had known for a long time. But you waited: patiently, courageously, with love, until I also knew, and agreed.
We first met 16 years ago. You were almost an afterthought at first. I had my eyes on another, but you had come with them, and we were introduced. The other asked, "Would you take care of my friend?" And I promised I would. I promised to take care of you. I promised to always give you a home. And I promised that whenever we parted, I would always return - that I would never desert you. I had never had a friend like you, so I wasn't completely sure what all that meant, but I was willing to learn, and I could sense that there was something special about you.
And though you were young - full of crazy, frenetic energy at times - you also made a promise to me. Your promise wasn't one of words - since you rarely spoke - but one seen in your eyes, and your actions, day after day, over the next 16 years as we lived together.
You promised to be my friend and faithful companion: to always be glad to see me when I returned from work, or adventures far away. You made me laugh when I felt lonely. You played silly games with me when I was bored. No matter what I did, you were always interested in it, and willing to "help". We shared the bohemian life of "bachelors". We were roommates. And we became more than friends and companions.
We became "buddies".
And even when, once again, another came into our lives - someone who I gave my heart to completely this time - you didn't complain or mope. Even when I uprooted both of us and moved us miles away to a new home, and your room and your bed weren't as "luxurious" as before, you didn't complain. You settled in contentedly - because you had made a promise to me, and I could see in your steady eyes that you meant to keep it.
Because we were "buddies". And that's what "buddies" do for each other.
The years passed, and as they did, we both began to change. I lost hair and got skinnier - you seemed to get hairier and "stouter" (we won't use the "F" word!). I got involved in many new things: met new people, pursued new interests, traveled to new places, got busy taking care of a new home and a bigger family. And you seemed to slow down - became less interested in "gallivanting about"; more of a "homebody"; happiest when you could simply sit and watch the world go by.
But you still always got up to greet me when I came home. You still were always interested to hear what I was up to; always tried to "come along" with me, even when you could only walk a few steps to the end of the driveway to pick up the newspaper with me. You always let me know that you missed me.
Because we were "buddies" and that was a promise you took seriously. It was a promise you had made for life. It was a promise made out of love. It was a promise, whose value I didn't realize, until it came time for us to say "goodbye".
I woke up today not knowing we would say "goodbye". We were just going on a short trip, like we had dozens of times before. We would chat in the car; you would complain a little. I would try to make you laugh, tell you the trip would do you good, and I'd promise that I wouldn't leave you and that I would return. But I think, looking back now, that I was deceiving myself. I did not want to admit that this might be the last time I saw you. But a part of me knew. A part of me saw what it didn't want to see - that you were suffering, and that I now had a promise to keep as well.
I had promised to always take care of you - to always give you a home - to always do what was best for you - and though I had never said it to you directly until today - to always love you.
And I learned something about a promise made - something that you had taught me.
One never realizes that when they make a promise like that - a promise made from love - that if it's genuine, it will require a cost, a sacrifice, a willingness to give of oneself completely to another. But you knew that. You taught me that.
So I took you to where I knew we would be parted. And I sat with you for as long as I could. I didn't leave, even when my heart was breaking - even when the pain of saying "goodbye" was so bad it left me shaking and crying. I whispered in your ear, as you gently went to sleep, one last time: "I'm right here. I love you. You have been a good, good friend. You have been with me through two lifetimes. I will miss you. You've been a good boy. I love you, Buddy."
I didn't leave you. I stayed with you, as you had always stayed with me. Even though it hurt. Even though it meant feeling the pain, and the goodness, of letting you go.
And for the last time, you looked at me with your golden eyes and you let me know, that it was OK. You were ready to go. You were at peace. Nothing had changed between us. We were still "buddies", and we would always be.
Your promise had been kept. And so had mine.
Buddy when he was about 2 or 3 in our "bachelor pad" (2000)
Buddy doing what he did best - nap (2005)
"King Buddy" surveying his realm (2010)
"Even in your absence, I can feel your presence. This is how we know true Love." (Guy Finley)
I love you, Buddy. I will miss you. But you will always be in my heart. I promise.