“Do you always hug strangers?”
What, dude? You’ve been married to me for more than forty-two years now, do I always hug strangers? Yes! You know I do.
Funny man, my husband. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last I hug a new friend I’ll never see again.
As we made our way back to the hotel after walking a beach in less than summertime heat, Dave lost me a few feet from the end of the trail. I spotted a large rock with shells around it and had to investigate what was there. As I walked up to the shrine, a young woman met me there. Her smile was so incredibly beautiful, she caught me off guard. As I read the memorial piece next to the picture of a very handsome young man that died too young, it felt like she was watching me instead of reading it herself. I looked up at her precious face and asked, “Did you know him?”
“He’s my brother,” she said sweetly, with joy and pride, hiding any sorrow that may have been just beneath the surface of her smile.
I apologized for her loss. It’s what we do. Not that it had a thing to do with me, but I was genuinely sorry for her loss. She calls him her soulmate. Wow – to be so close to a sibling that you’d call them your soulmate. Her loss was great. Yet, her joy for knowing him was greater.
She told me a little about him.
I asked how he’d died expecting her to say it was a surfing accident, or something of the like. But he’d killed himself. She didn’t really go into much detail as to why. We talked for a few minutes about losing a loved one that way. I contributed little, since I don’t think I’ve personally known and loved anyone who’s life ended this way.
The whole town treasured his friendship, erecting the memorial there, declaring and celebrating his life for all the world to see. If you go to Vilano Beach in St. Augustine, Florida – make sure to set aside some time to find this rock, this memorial, and wait there for a few minutes. I think you’ll feel it, too. You’ll feel his love reach out across time and even death, to touch you.
I’m from a world away. I’d have never known this man Mikal Benjamin Evers – but, now his wonderful life has touched mine, and creeps into my thoughts like a haunting love story; a story of a life loved because he loved so generously.
Whatever drove him to the desperate feelings of such despair that he took his own life, it stole from us a young man who could have shared his passionate love for so many more decades. Yet, his love remains. I’m sure of it. I saw it in his sister’s face, in her eyes. It made me want to know him and see him putting his love in action. And, we hugged.
When I got home from vacation, I looked him up on the internet. I read his obituary, I read a few news articles about him. I read what his sister wrote about him. It all touched me all the deeper.
Do I always hug strangers? No. But, I do it a lot. If I didn’t, I’d miss out on so much love!
Pay attention, take a look around – where’s your next hug coming from?
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)