Point to Ponder: A friend is the one who knows the song in your heart and plays it back to you when you have forgotten the words.
The emergency room was gray and teeming with sick patients. A gun shot victim had just been wheeled in – the grim faces of the family that waited grew darker by the minute.
My friend was restless, couldn't sit and couldn't fully stand because his legs shook as he paced. A drunken night and one bad decision had culminated in his trip to the emergency room at three in the morning. He had been exposed to HIV. He was worried he had contracted the virus.
My friend was hoping a cocktail of pills, a prophylaxis as his doctor called it, would help cleanse his system of whatever exposure his body might have claimed as its own. But he would have to wait six months to know if the pills, the prophylaxis, really worked. Six agonizing months wondering, replaying, and analyzing what he did and didn't do that night.
And six months to look at the way he had been leading his life. A hard look at himself – facing and accepting who he had become. You see, I have known this friend for most of my life. He had once been a positive, open, and loving person. Along the way he became bitter, distrustful, and angry. He didn't believe in people or himself. He alienated his parents and his close friends when he drank and did drugs. He chose the fast life and the fast life had finally caught up to him.
I spent the next six months with him, seeing him periodically, catching up on how he was doing. During that first month he said all he could think about was his body deteriorating - of feeling the inability of not being able to do anything but succumb to the virus. He said that he often felt there was no point to anything anymore.
Then something unusual, something I would have never expected occurred. At about month three, when we were sitting on a park bench watching kids running on the playground, he said he'd come to feel better as a person. That the virus was a blessing and he was at peace with what was happening to him.
“You know, sometimes these events are a blessing in disguise.”
He must have been able to see the doubt creep across my face because he pressed on.
“You see, I hurt people by the choices I made and I understand that. Before my thoughts were driven by how they affected me alone. What is happening is a direct result of my actions and I accept that now.”
I was silent.
“I hurt the very people that loved me most. And through this ordeal it is those people that also have stood by me. I felt so much guilt for the pain I caused and for a while I couldn't stand it. I even thought about killing myself. It was at the lowest point that my best friend said something to me I'll never forget.”
I was his best friend but I know I hadn't said much to him these last few months.
“He said that what is done is done. The past can't be changed. We can only accept the errors we've made and our true friends are the ones that find it in their hearts to forgive. We all move on – we have to. But for whatever time is left, you have to decide how you want to live your life, how you want to treat people, and the type of person you want to be. That is the power you now have in your hands.”
He took in a breath and stared off - at the kids, at the empty field.
“So, who said that?”, I asked.
He smiled, “my father.”