I took a leap last weekend. I went to visit friends. Actually, I went to visit Pete’s oldest and dearest friends who have become my friends in recent years since we became a couple. There’s a reason that Pete loved them all so much. They are kind and wonderful human beings with hearts of gold. He met them during some of the most influential years of his life--junior and senior year in high school. They played music together, they were in some of his first bands, they dated, they supported each other through marriages and divorces—and marriages and divorces. When they would get together it was like no time at all had passed. They’d tell old stories about things they did—and shouldn’t have done—then grab guitars and launch into the greatest hits of the 70’s that they had played in school for hours on end.
These men and women were important to Pete, and it was important to him that we all got along. We did better than get along—they embraced me, and I’m not always so easy to embrace. I was nervous, standoffish even, when we first met—but they weren’t. It was like they’d always known me. I’m no fool, and I know a good thing when I see it so I grew to care about them as well.
Since Pete’s passing, I’ve received numerous invitations to visit people. I just haven’t been ready. Last weekend I took the leap. I found out a couple of months ago that Pete’s band, from his high school years in New Bern, NC, was getting back together for a reunion gig. I was invited to come. “Lots of Pete’s friends will be there—we’d love to have you join us.” I cannot think of many events more painful than watching a band Pete was once in, without him, on stage. There would be a huge missing piece of the production. Then again, I’m sure they would feel the loss as well. I decided that it’s now or never, and I owe it to these wonderful people to offer them support and let them know how much I appreciate all the love they’ve sent my way since Pete died. It occurred to me that if I kept turning down these invitations they might stop asking me, and that would be sad. So before I could change my mind I booked the airline ticket and rental car.
To say the trip triggered mixed feelings isn’t a powerful enough sentiment. The mixture of pain and beauty was so intense. Throughout the weekend all I could think was that I shouldn’t have come, and I was on the verge of tears half of the time. Like a young girl who jumped into a sleepover before she was really ready, “I want to go home!” It’s always bothered me when people don’t talk about Pete, avoiding the subject. This was the opposite. We talked about Pete all weekend and it was FANTASTIC. Mostly the remembrances were funny, but a couple of them were sad stories of pain and regret that we all had. Regardless, nobody was afraid to share with me and it brought me so much joy—and pain. So there’s got to be a word for that, extremely opposite emotions both serving a purpose. It was so difficult being present because I couldn’t avoid the pain or the obvious void that Pete left. However, I was conscious the whole time—this has got to be good for me—to dive in and stop being afraid of being immersed in a space that was 100% Pete’s. Another close friend of mine told me today that this was just another one of those difficult steps I’ve decided to take—that it was moving forward. Not on, but forward.
The result is this: Sometimes difficult is good. I left New Bern full of love and appreciation. Full of other people’s love of Pete. My heart is lighter than before I arrived. The next time I go, and I know now there will be a next time, I’ll be able to enjoy it even more. Thank you my friends.
Do you have a leap that you are putting off?