It's been three years since it happened, and I can still remember it as if it were yesterday...
Last Friday, I had the chance to sit down with a friend of a friend who is currently interviewing people for a soon-to-be-released nonprofit film called Compelling Love. Going into the interview, I only briefly watched the Kickstarter video and glanced at the Facebook page. A few emails were exchanged, times were arranged, and the next thing you know, I'm sitting in a surprisingly comfortable chair in a suite at the Drake hotel in which I could only have dreamed of sleeping.
The point of the interview seemed relatively simple: share my story. I'd done it before, too many times to count, though only a couple before while being filmed. Yet as I sat there with panels of LEDs blaring at me, I found myself drawn in and opened up. This time felt more authentic than it ever did in the past. This time was different. This time, I was different. Maybe that's what made the experience so meaningful.
Kurt Neale, the director, and his crew were tireless in their preparations. Their hospitality simple and sincere, I felt loved from the start. We took a few minutes to get to know each other in person. They mic'd me and got me situated in front of the camera. I was instructed (several times I might add) to use "I" language, to stay as close to myself as possible. And then the questions began...
- How would you describe the state of the world today?
- Define the following words: tolerance, grace, true, compelling, love, compelling love.
- Is sacrifice a component of love? If so, how?
- Are grace and truth components of love?
- How do you decide what is right and wrong?
- How do you personally move beyond tolerance and connect with people distinctly different from you?
- If Jesus Christ were on this earth today, how do you think that he would treat people with views, beliefs, and practices different from yours?
There were more, many more. And while I've thought about these topics for a long time, this experience was different because I was different. Here I am, a recent seminary graduate, married, preparing to move to a new city to pursue my career. Here I am, a man who's more comfortable with his identity and with his mental health than ever before. Here I am... thirty...
...you can't realize how much you've changed until it actually happens
Three years ago today, my world changed forever. Three years ago today, I got the message telling me Nanny had been in a car accident. And unbeknownst to me, three years ago today would be the last day she lived. I didn't know it then, and that is probably the best thing that could have happened.
Three years ago last Friday, I was in Kentucky with Nanny for what would be our last visit. I say this because it helps me make sense of why my interview with Kurt was so powerful. You see, there is something simple in common between my last week with Nanny and my interview with Kurt: they were both experiences of being loved. Nanny did it through her presence, through our conversations and meals, through her affection. Kurt did it with his passion and intentionality, through pushing me to be an individual with a story worth being heard, through his questions and hugs and time.
Here's the interesting part: normally, when telling my story, Nanny gets the limelight. She stands as the archetype for love whenever I tell someone about who I am. Yet Friday, as Kurt and I talked about love and identity and relationships and difference, I was surprised to see that this had changed. My mom had taken her place, at least for this instance. Nanny, being the grandmother, loved me with ease. It seemed to come so naturally to her. For mom — and I say this with the utmost respect — loving me wasn't as easy. Yet over the years, even when things were hard, even when we couldn't see eye to eye, my mom never stopped loving me.
...it isn't always easy to feel loved, but doing so changes you...
Since Nanny died, June 10th has been a day of hell for me, a day of waiting, a day of reliving the pain of having my world crumble. Last year and the year before, I spent today remembering every little detail. The crying. The screaming. The endless phone calls.
Today feels different. I feel different. Perhaps June 10th doesn't have to be that way. Perhaps it can be a day of remembering and recalling all the people who have made me feel loved, especially Nanny, especially Mom. Perhaps it can be a chance to experience the healing side of grief and not the debilitating side. Maybe that's what we all need to do sometimes: name the people who love us and be thankful.
photo credit: TC Morgan via Flickr