“I love you, brother.” Such simple words. I love you. We say it to our spouses/significant others and hopefully to our kids on a regular basis. But, especially you guys, when was the last time you told a friend you love them? A male friend. Honestly, until fairly recently, I’m not sure I had ever told a male friend I loved him. That is, until I met Emilio. Candidly, I hadn’t even been friends with Emilio all that long before we started saying, “I love you, brother” when one of us left the neighborhood bar. But, soon thereafter, I found myself exchanging “I love yous” with many of my male buddies. Then, suddenly, and without warning, we had to say our final goodbyes and I love yous to Emo at his memorial service. His love for his friends and family was a central tenet of the speeches we all heard. We all cried a lot. We all exchanged I love yous. At one point, I wept in the arms of my friend, Ken, and we told each other, “I love you.” I will miss Emo more than words can express and I hope to carry on his spirit. I have so much to be grateful for that he came into my life, but most of all, he taught me how to express love for my friends.
I get a daily devotional email, which I concede I delete without reading all too often in my haste to get to my daily grind. But, I opened it this morning and the opening line read, “Take a minute to pause and think about what words you’ve said (or typed) this past week. Would you say you’re known for how you love others?” Prior to meeting Emilio, I don’t think anyone outside my immediate family would have much of an answer to that. I have a long way to go, but Emo definitely put me on a better path.
Though I only met Emilio 5 or 6 years ago, I met him at a particularly turbulent time in my own life and became friends with him as I was going through my divorce – a process I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Emilio had gone through a divorce himself, so he was an important sounding board for me. Men are not good listeners. I know that’s a generalization, but we’re not. We even kid each other about our ability to exit a conversation somewhere in the middle. Not Emo. When you were talking to him, you were the only thing in the world that mattered. A Sports Illustrated swimsuit model could be standing by waiting to talk to him and his eyes would never leave yours during a conversation. He was There for you with a capital “T.” Really listening. Really caring. And, really loving you for whatever it was you were talking about. So rare in any person and, sorry to my fellow dudes, very rare in a man.
I’ve written several blogs after attending the funerals of loved ones. I often find myself writing about all the things I learned about the person from the eulogies. That makes me sad in the sense that I wish I’d known these things about the person when they were alive. I learned that one of my closest Aunts, who passed a few years ago, was far more religious than I’d known. I wish I had a chance to talk about God with her. I never did. I loved the stories told about Emo at his memorial service. I didn’t know many of the stories, but the picture they painted of my friend were exactly as I knew him. Selfless. Caring. Always positive. Loving.
My daily devotional e-mail today ended with a very short and simple writing from 1 John 4:11, which says
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.
I only hope that I can carry on some of Emilio’s very special spirit, which is so perfectly captured in that line of scripture. I know I can’t do so perfectly because I’m not him. But I will try. I will try to be a better listener. I will try to lock in on people the way he did. And, I will try very hard to make sure the people I love know it. I’m tempted to name names, but I fear I would leave someone out. But, friends, please know that I love you. And, if I don’t tell you that next time we hug, please tell me you love me and I’ll remember. Life is short. Life is precious. The people you love need to hear it.
Emilio, I miss you. And, I love you, brother.