The snow crunched beneath my feet.
I fixed my eyes on the black heels that would take me up the hill I would never be able to forget.
I grabbed a small wilted lily from a vase and I stood, wrapped in black, waiting.
Waiting to wake up and discover it had all been a dream.
Waiting for something to change.
Realizing that nothing would.
Standing still I thrust my hands into the depths of my pockets and watched the people around me.
I marveled at the way one life could bring so many together.
“It is a beautiful thing,” I thought to myself, “how one life can change the course of hundreds.”
It was strangely humorous how on a day like this I thought of beauty.
But I did. I had to.
Because I wanted nothing more than for these to be my only thoughts.
But soon enough, like an arrow through a target, reality sped in and left me pierced with grief.
The sobs of his mother snapped me back to the present and I prayed silently
as the procession made its way past me.
Past me and my wilted lily.
He had been a wonderful friend I told myself, as I looked at his body laying serene, hands folded at his waist. He had changed my life; without attempt, without congratulations, and without realization.
Sure, he had embodied everything I was not. In matters of God, faith, Heaven, politics and sometimes even manners, we fought unending.
But despite our differences, we were somehow drawn together.
He was always respectful; never ceasing to let his opinion be known, while still honoring mine.
I had loved him more then I let him believe and respected him more than I ever spoke. All I ever wanted was to show him the truth. All I wanted was for him to see how passionately he was being pursued by God.
It was a worthy cause, but certainly not one of ease.
Time after time, he threw up his hands and built walls to repel my words.
And now, standing before his resting place, I told myself that I had done all that I could.
That I had given my all to see my dear friend saved, spared, forgiven.
But as I gazed down at the flower resting on my palm, a realization struck and fiercely multiplied my sorrow.
Tears streamed down my face and I admitted that I had not done my best at all.
I had quit.
I had chosen ease over sacrifice. Comfort over Kingdom.
My heart broke and my spirit fell like the snow.
How could I have done this? How could I have forsaken God and forgotten my friend. Why didn’t I see it before? Why hadn’t I realized his pain? Or noticed his retreat?
He challenged me in my faith and opened my eyes to new things.
He made me laugh, made me love music, made me dream.
He had been a friend.
And what had I been?
A failure. I had failed.
Even the lily, clasped between my fingers, seemed to call me a hypocrite.
It too felt my grief as it bent under the twisting and turning of my fingers.
I watched it sway in the cold breeze of the morning and I prayed.
“God, give me your heart.”
I gazed from Charlie’s family and classmates and then to the face of a friend that I loved so dearly but never had the heart to tell. I looked from his eyes, closed in ending, to the flower, open in beauty.
My mind whirled as I saw a resemblance.
They were one in the same: wilted, forgotten, left for dead.
I wanted more than anything to help Charlie, but I had forgotten one thing: sometimes we care so much that we forget to actually act. Seeing someone in need and doing something about it are completely different things. No one should ever be left alone. No one who is struggling, hurting, or lost should be left to wilt or disappear, and certainly no one should watch as it happens. If Charlie taught me anything it was that life is more than meets the eye. That this life we are a part of has an unmovable purpose and a greater course than we could ever fathom.
That chilly morning, as I stood in a soon to be puddle, dressed in black, drowning out the murmurs of the priest, I thanked Charlie. I thanked him for being my friend, but even more I thanked him for freeing me from the selfish idea that life is life and death is death and that’s where it ends.
I know now that there is more to life than simply living.
Life is about choices.
Choices to take the way of least resistance, as I had done so many times, or to conquer the difficult.
Choices to help or to harm.
Choices to help those we love find truth, or let them continue to search aimlessly.
Choices to dream big or to give up.
Ultimately, our life is a choice to wilt away or to grow and become more.
As I walked down the winding hill that I had climbed in sorrow, my heart was surprisingly light.
I missed him, but I knew that he had now changed my path, not only with his life, but with his death.
I had not succeeded with my dear friend, but I would with the next.
In a way I felt I had failed him, but I had resolved to win the next.
I had let him wilt, but knew that with his help, I would see yet another grow.
I remembered the lily. The simple, wilting flower I had picked in honor of my friend was still snuggled between my fingers. I watched the flower swaying in the February breeze and I couldn’t pull my gaze.
My eyes swelled as I noticed a small, fresh bud below its petals.
A bud that had the potential to become a beautiful flower.
It was like my God stood with me, wrapped in black, ankle deep in snow and whispered,
“Great things grow out of tragedy. There is hope beyond failure.”
I thoughtfully traced the edges of the white flower and I climbed one last time to say my goodbye.
Standing by the grave that held the shell of my lost friend, I laid the lily to rest.
Wilted, but full of potential. Cut off, but not forgotten.
I whispered quietly to my friend and to my Father,
“This doesn’t end here. There’s more to do and more to grow.”