Can any regret cut deeper than the regret of not having loved? I'm not talking in syrupy, poetic terms of never having that romantic, soulmate, love-for-all-the ages infatuation for someone, but rather of missing the opportunity to show love, to put love into action.
Long story short, I've been thinking tonight of lost opportunities, and of a lost friend. No, there were never any hard feelings between us, for any reason. But I loved him like a brother, and I never really showed it. We weren't particularly close, and several years separated us in age, and though I felt great affection for him, he probably never knew how much I cared. I must stress (perhaps because of people's tendency to disbelieve the possibility of platonic affection between the sexes) that my feelings were not romantic in any way; he was, in fact, old enough to have been my father, though he always remained very youthful in his spirit.
He made, throughout his life, choices. Some good, some bad. Those who loved him (and I think there were always more than he would have acknowledged) watched him struggle, stumble, falter, and fail. And we watched him rise again, and fight his demons. I like to think of him as a good man (for I saw that it him) who too often made poor choices, and the sort that ensnare quicker and tighter than most. I don't, since my conversion, presume to know the destiny of his soul, even. But I pray for him, and I hope. Because I loved him, and so I must hope. And I know he loved God, and so my hope is not in vain.
When he became sick, I watched him fight. Good news would come, bad would follow. We all prayed for a miracle, but a healing was not to be. The extra time we were given would have to be grace enough. When it became clear that he would not be getting better, that I would not see him standing across the church from me again, I grieved for the loss. His presence was familiar, a bright light, a comfort, and a smile for my heart.
I wanted to go and see him. But how could I? As I said before, we'd never been particularly close. Honestly, I didn't even know where he lived (I'm antisocial like that; I know where relatively few live, even in such a small town). I wouldn't have been expected. (And I have this odd fear of not doing what is expected of me--a topic for a whole other post, actually.) Would I be welcome? Do families really want guests at such a time? I never knew, because I never even asked. I let uncertainty rob me of the chance to ever see my friend again, at least on this side of Heaven. I let it steal any love, comfort, and joy we might have shared in those final days. And I regret.
I regret the love not fully expressed, never fully given. I regret never asking if there was something I might have done for him and for his family. I don't know what it might have been. In moments such as these, I hold out my hands, and they seem so small and empty, and I do not know what I might have to offer that could be of any worth.
And so I stood helplessly by, and I prayed, and I cried. And it wasn't enough. Not because he died anyway; I'm not that childish. But because I missed the opportunity to show love, through service, or a thoughtful gift, a visit, or even a letter or card. I missed the opportunity to serve, and to give, or even if nothing I could offer was needed, the opportunity to let him know how much he meant to me, and how very much he would be missed.
Never miss an opportunity to love, or to give, my friends. You will never regret the love that's given--only the love you keep to yourself.