To Love or Not To Love, by Michael Duncan

Michael Duncan

“They are out to get us, time to run faster so we can escape.” I shook this thought from my mind as the clerk called us next to the counter, “May I help you?” Micah, who was my partner and best friend, handed the clerk our paperwork. His small hands were trembling. Micah and I were taking the big plunge, the deal of all deals; our future would soon be joined. Marriage was not something we took lightly, and the mere thought of it scared both of us to death. We had fought for so many years; we had lost great friendships, and even our families had turned their backs on us because of our decision to marry one another.

One cold morning in March, we participated in a protest in Vermont. The air was so cold that within minutes I lost the feeling in my face and hands. I remember seeing snow everywhere, bright white, a solid white as pure as the love we were fighting for. I remember thinking how crazy it was to have to fight for the same freedom to love and marry as everyone else could take for granted. Fighting for love seemed to me such a contradiction. Our fight did pay off, though, because now here we stood at the courthouse getting our marriage license. We were about to confess our love before God and enter into a civil union with clear minds and open hearts.

Love is that feeling you get when everything in life points you right back to the same person over and over. A sound can remind us of that person or the smell of fresh baked apple pie with a hint of spice, and we are magically home in a loving environment. Even a song can hold so many memories that it makes our soul soar to new heights and a smile pop on our face as we think of a special loved one. Indeed, love is a wonderful thing. It is said to be the strongest of all emotions. In my life, it is a reality that true love will never die.

Then there is a knock from the door, and I am back in the present moment. A voice calls out, “The guests are all seated, it’s time to begin.” A large and looming fear comes over me as I slip on my white coat and reach for the door. Suddenly the air is thick as butter, and I become pale as a white linen sheet hanging out to dry. “Pull it together!” I say to myself; this is the day you have dreamed of, the day you will marry your best friend. As I place the rose on my lapel, I think of all the reasons I love him, each petal of the flower represents another thought that like the petals all seem to flow together into one beautiful creation. “Ouch!” I cry as I stick a thorn right through my finger; the pain from that lovely creation would leave a scar that would always remind me of that moment. How could something so beautiful hurt so bad and leave behind a permanent reminder of its pain?

Fast forward five years. Over the years our love for each other continued to flow effortlessly. We celebrated our 5th anniversary surrounded by old friends and the new ones we had made during our journey. We raised our glasses and toasted our unending love for one another. Our home was full of laughter and celebration. Music and conversation filled the night air as it mixed with the sounds of New York City. We heard traffic, horns blaring, the subway rattling and sirens screaming out. In our house, love filled the air.

Marriage had been good to us; I was now a mid-ranking officer in the Navy and Micah was finished with med school and was very successful in his career at the local hospital and with his private practice. The loft was now paid in full, and we seemed to be living the great American Dream. At this point, things could not have been better, and we were at the top of our game. Love is a risk, but a risk very much worth the gamble. However, if you play the game you have to expect to lose sometimes. I mean what goes up must come down, right?

And that night it really came crashing down; little did I know my world was about to fall apart. Busting glass was the first sound I heard; I sat straight up in my bed, my heart pounding like the beat of a drum getting faster and tighter. As I reached for the phone and dialed 911, I saw Micah race down the hall and toward the steps, so I quickly chased after him, but he disappeared into the darkness ahead. The staircase was colder than normal that night as I silently descended the steps, each one leading closer to the sound of what I hoped was Micah. “Stop,” My body fell stiff like goldfish in a frozen pond; we suddenly heard the noise again, and we knew someone was in the house, and we were not alone anymore. As we made our way through the kitchen toward the backdoor, a flash of light streaked across the blackness and a shot rang out so loud it seemed to deafen my hearing. All at once, I was pushed to the floor, and someone had landed on top of me. As I scrambled to break free, I felt my clothing become wet as blood ran across me like a sheet of water. Headlights from the street flashed in my eyes, and I saw the body I was holding was Micah. He had pushed me out of danger and sacrificed his own life to save mine. A chill of terror filled my body as I heard him whisper, “I love you and I would do it all again.” Those were the last words he ever spoke to anyone as he trembled and fought to take his last breath. I sat in the darkness and knew that I was alone for the first time in my life, the pain so intense that I wondered how I could survive the night. The shock of what was happening seemed to be a bad dream, but I knew I was wide awake.

Though true love has not found me since that horrible summer night in New York City, I still cling to the thought that at least I do know true love. Though the pain is still often too hard to bear, days when I thought I could not take another step have brought me closer to truth. This lesson has shaped my desire to share the message with others and is the reason I can continue to live and move forward. Through the deepest pain I have ever faced, I have realized that true love is worth the fight, battles, scars, and even the loss-the purpose why we choose to forgive and reconnect with loved ones that have done us wrong and turned their back on us. As Alfred, Lord Tennyson so eloquently stated, “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” Those words of hope and inspiration still ring out through time and space. And as the Bible states, “Though the sorrow may last for the night, Joy comes in the morning.” Sometimes, perhaps, we have to know true sorrow to appreciate true joy, and true loss to understand true love.

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