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Buddy Eric

September 15, 2013

In the late eighties I was a young wife and new mom.  I didn’t know much about how the world really worked and I was still naïve.  One uneventful summer weekend a young, single man moved in next door to our Berkley bungalow.  I delivered a pan of brownies to welcome him.  That was the day our friendship began.

Buddy Eric  circa 1995

Eric c. 1995

He was a bright, sunny Californian who lived in the Detroit area because of his work.  He was intelligent, funny, kind, articulate, generous and wonderful.  Jon and I loved him like a brother and he made us part of his Michigan family.  Our toddler, Anna, adored him and he adored her.  She would run to him and he would scoop her up and they would have a love fest.  She called him “Buddy Eric” and eventually Jon and I did, too.

The day Desert Storm began he banged on my door and breathlessly told me what was happening.  He and I sat on my sofa, stunned, watching the events unfold on CNN, holding hands and crying.  We shared many important events, some scary, some happy and some sad.  Eric was devastated when his dad, so far away, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

In time my family moved but I kept in touch with our “Buddy” and he would come over now and then for dinner.  One Sunday he called and said he needed to talk to us and asked if it would it be ok if he came right over.  Of course it was and he did.  Over the next two hours our precious friend told a horrific story about childhood sexual abuse and he confided in us that he was gay.  As he told us everything all three of us wept.  He had held so much in for so long, alone.  It was gut-wrenching to see this beloved friend in so much pain.

I had worked with a few gay men but I had never had someone so close to my heart “come out.”  My initial feeling was shock but I quickly realized that absolutely nothing had changed; he was the same Eric I loved and cherished.  He was still funny and kind and wonderful.  The only thing that changed was my knowledge of his abuse and sexual preference.  If new knowledge ends our love for someone then the love must not have been real. I feel blessed that my initial shock immediately returned to the real love I have for Eric.  It was an honor that he felt he could finally be completely honest and vulnerable by telling us everything.  I thank God that both Jon and I were able to tell him then and there that we loved him and that we were there for him.

We had a few more visits with him; the last was in 1995, shortly after the birth of our second child. Eric was moving home to California and he thanked us for our friendship and our love.  I think we may have received one or two letters from him at first but eventually we lost contact.

I never forgot about Eric and prayed for his peace whenever I thought about him.

Six years ago I decided that I missed him and I set out to find him so I could catch up with him. I Googled him.  What I found, instead of contact information, was a website set up by his family, dedicated to his memory.  At the time he had been dead a little over a year.  Our amazing, loving Buddy Eric had ended his own life.

I was heartbroken to know that this beautiful person, one of the most wonderful men I would ever meet, was so wounded that he couldn’t see any other way to find peace.  Somehow he lost the knowledge that he was loved and he believed that his life was no longer worth living.

As I said, I was heartbroken.  Was.  I’m still heartbroken but now I am also mad.  Why is our society so cruel?

He was broken as a boy, by abuse.  As an adult, when faced with his own traumatic reality he shattered into a million little pieces.  He needed love.  He needed acceptance.  He needed God.  Unfortunately, ours is a world with a serious lack of love and acceptance.  I’m certain Eric found love and acceptance from his mom and from his friends but from society as a whole?  Probably not.

It is when you are broken into a million little pieces that God can come in and perform wonders.  He can re-build you into so much more than you can build yourself.  His love can make all things new.  Sometimes staying focused on His love is so blasted hard. There is always someone there to drown out God’s voice, ironically, often by proclaiming God’s word… or at least their own interpretation of His word.

Make no mistake, our world is filled with God and His all-powerful love is always there but when His creatures, humans, treat one another with contempt, anger, fear, blame and unkindness, it is really, REALLY hard to hear God’s voice.  “I love you.  You are mine.”

Think about it… when was the last time you heard Him?  When was the last time you listened for Him?  When was the last time you extended His mercy to someone who needed it?  I did not say “to someone who deserved it.” God freely gives His mercy and His forgiveness to each one of us each and every time we ask.  Why would any human think that he or she had the authority to decide who gets mercy (kindness) and who does not?

Jesus gave us two commandments… “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.“  Matthew 22: 37-39

Eric, shortly before his death 2006

We are supposed to love God and love one another.

I feel guilt that I lost contact with Eric.  I wonder how the world treated him in his last years.  Was he shown God’s love or was he judged and treated unfairly?  Was it his own feelings of guilt that lead to his suicide?  Did he believe that the world hated him or was he told that mercy and love were not meant for him?  Did he believe the lies that morals vigilantes perpetuate?

What people say is only what people say.  What people think is only what people think.  What people do is only what people do.  Feelings are only feelings.  There is one real, unchanging truth:  God created you because He loves you.  He loves you and He wants you and He never stops loving you.  Ever.  People often have small minds and say mean, judgmental things… they are only people.  Who gives a crap?  Screw them.  Screw them all.  God loves you.  YOU are his absolute favorite.  Period.

Today my heart was heavy.  Today I contemplate two truths.  The first is that Eric is no longer here.  If I could tell Eric one thing it would be the second truth on my mind today: The only thing that truly matters most is love, God’s love.

God loves you, Eric.

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