hugs

One of the things that touched me the most over the last few days was witnessing the Love shared between the large group of young men who were friends with Garrett and Kel. I admired their open expression of emotions, “I love you’s” and hugs that were accompanied with resounding thumps on one another’s backs. Each time they approached one another, they embraced solidly, crying together and hanging on until they were strong enough to approach. The times that I was blessed to be standing near one of their embraces and they thumped each other on the back, I could feel it vibrate through the earth and through my body. The thump on the men’s backs became a thump on my own back and filled every cell of my body.

My daughter noticed this ritual too and said to me how much she appreciated their open willingness to seek out comfort in one another’s arms. There was no shame to be humanly emotional, out in the open, in the middle of the crowd. They were grieving and the expression of this was shown through free-flowing tears and sometimes full-body sobs and wails.

At the beginning of the night Wednesday, as they started pouring into the barn for the viewing in waves of humanity, I felt stirrings within me. A decade ago, *I* would have felt cautious around these men and I imagine their appearance causes wariness in others because they have wild piercings, massive plugs in their earlobes, and incredible tattoos covering their skin. I’m imagining that they’ve grown used to – and probably oblivious to – the gawking of strangers. I realized, as I witnessed their tender strength and their unwavering connection, that I had created a story that someone who pierced and inked and stretched their skin like they do, somehow, did not feel pain.

I sat with that realization for awhile, as I watched their pure expressions of utter sadness, longing, and disbelief and I felt my heart opening in new ways. These men – whose physical appearance seemed to say to me that they had “no feelings” –  became Gentle Giants in my eyes. The veneer of stoic strength that *I* had placed upon them shattered right before my very eyes and they became real, tangible, approachable human beings who were hurting, just as I was – and possibly even more. I became aware that it was my judgment of them that was placing upon each of them a shell of unfeeling coldness. It was me who was perceiving them this way and it was up to me as to whether I was going to see the truth or not.

In an instant, I chose Love. I chose to witness their perfection, their souls, their joy, their pure delightfulness. Because of this, as the days rolled on, I found myself unfailingly falling in love with each of the young men, appreciating their unfettered expression of true emotion, and expanding myself in the experience of them. Their unadulterated grief was a sacred blessing, a humbling experience, and moved me to tears every time. I feel so blessed to have been touched by their resounding hugs.

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