by KRISTEN REYNA

This is my childhood friend, Kenny.  This is us in the awkward junior high phase. Really awkward. Check out our hair and Kenny’s collar!

Kenny and I were good friends, good friends who cared deeply about each other and shared the same friend group over thirty years ago. We were family. Recently, we all jumped on a zoom call to plan a reunion and I cried when I saw their faces and heard their voices. Ugly cried.

We said, “I love you,” when we hung up just like the old days. Kenny couldn’t join us that day. Our next zoom call, Kenny was on but I couldn’t make it. 

In January I got sick and ended up in the ER. At one point, all the monitors started going off and I felt a heaviness in my chest. I was dizzy and my vision was fading. Four or five nurses busted through the door and put something under my tongue, pumped something in my IV and were questioning me about where my next of kin was. I couldn’t speak because I couldn’t breathe and I knew I was dying.

At least I thought I was dying and it appeared the medical team did too. I wasn’t dying. Turns out, my heart likes to beat to it’s own drum. My electrophysiologist says my heart does an extra little dance at the beginning and end of every beat. I like to think my heart just has a little extra spunk. 

When I thought I was dying, my life didn’t flash before my eyes. I didn’t have any regrets about my past or have any dying wishes. What I did have was a distinct realization of my job. No, not my job in the legal field, my REAL job. The job I was designed for. The only job that means anything at all.

I knew if I made it out of there alive, the rest of my life would be spent loving people BIG. Not just saying, “I love you,” but living it. The rest of my life would be giving myself away. All of me. I wasn’t exactly sure what that looked like, but I knew life was going to be different.

That journey continues and I’m putting legs to this dream. It’s not glamorous love. It’s messy and awkward and a little rough around the edges. This is big love and it comes more and more into focus every day.

It started with reminding everyone I come into contact with how much I love them. Not because that matters, but because it matters they know they’re loved by someone far greater than I could ever be.

Fast forward to a recent conversation with my childhood friend, Kenny. It was brief because I was rushing out the door to something so insignificant I can’t even remember what it was.

At the end, I almost said, “I love you.” Almost.

Instead I allowed the awkwardness of years gone by to get in the way and I held my tongue.

Yesterday I got the news my sweet friend, Kenny had passed away.

The last time I said, “I love you, Kenny” was our freshman year of high school. Kenny was loved by so many, whether I said it recently or not didn’t matter to him. It mattered to me.

You see, I don’t want to leave your presence without you knowing how much I love you. I love you with a love that neither of us deserves. A love that means you are my brother or my sister and you’re worthy of dignity and care because the One who is higher than I counts you as worthy simply because YOU ARE YOU.

Please don’t hold back your “I love you’s.” Say them loudly and often. Say them when it’s messy and awkward and when someone might get the wrong impression. Say it anyway. It might just be your last opportunity to tell YOUR Kenny how much you love him.

I’ll go first. I LOVE YOU.

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