An unfortunate, but all too true fact of life is that we are often our least loving, least pleasant and least gracious selves to the ones we truly love the most. We often have the “get out of jail free” card attitude with people we maybe shared a room with for ten years growing up, or share a bed with now. Why in the world is that??? I know how terribly guilty I am of this at times. I struggle constantly with biting my tongue with my parents. My sisters and I can move from BFFs to enemies and back again in a matter of moments. Some view these relationships as blessings. It’s fortunate to have people we can be ourselves with and regardless of what we might say or do, they accept us, forgive us and take us back, even when we’re at our nastiest.
I think today of my friend, Bryan Schwegler, who died suddenly last August at the age 34 and today, would have turned 35. Bryan was in the prime of his life at the time of his passing. He was the biggest fan of food I have ever met and when we would dine together, would never skip dessert. We shared most of our undergrad classes at Ursuline and I know without a doubt that I would not have made it through half of them without him in class to entertain me. Bryan would put me into hysterics with the things that amused him – the Burger King (not the establishment itself, but the actual Burger King character with its giant head that scared the crap out of people in commercials); he couldn’t get over my use of the Nelly song “Hot in Herrre” for a project we did together in our very first class. Bryan and his partner, Adam, (along with my friend, Natasha) were the very first dinner guests I had when I moved into my apartment two years ago. And on our graduation day in 2010, Bryan and I shared breakfast at the Original Pancake House in Woodmere before heading to school for practice and mass. At the ceremony, we stood separated only by a few students and gave each other many smiles. I was happy our friendship continued after we left school. We would try to see each other once a month with Bryan and Adam either cooking for me at their home or taking me to a restaurant Bryan would insist I HAD to try. In July of last year, Bryan, Adam and me had dinner at Sweet Melissa’s and watched a Shakespeare in the Park production of “Othello” on the lawn of Lakewood Park before calling it a night. A few weeks later, we made plans to get together on August 22 to have dinner on the patio at The Player’s Club in Lakewood. I remember being in email with him confirming our plans and remarking how excited I was to see him – to learn more about his Swedish lessons in preparation for his upcoming trip to Sweden and hear more about his Masters classes at Ursuline. On the morning of Friday, August 19, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post from Adam that read, “Bryan Schwegler passed away last night.” Do you ever read something and have to read it over and over because you’re not convinced what you read was actually real? Yeah, it was something like that… the worst was confirmed and on August 22, instead of having dinner with my friend, I went to his memorial service and walked away knowing I would never in this life see him, touch him, laugh with him, learn from him, or smile at him again.
Monday’s gospel spoke of how we treat each other. How when we’re at our best, and treat others with our best, we are treating God with our best. And how when we’re at our worst, we are treating God with our worst. There is nothing I am more grateful for than knowing my last interactions with Bryan were positive ones. That I know my friend died knowing he was loved by me. What I hope for is that everyone I love knows the same. And it’s my job to make sure they do.