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When I was a little girl my best friend was a neighbor and classmate, Michael Tomele. Michael was a sweet little boy whose tough Italian persona belied his tenderness and brilliance. He brought me gifts daily, usually the neighbors’ flowers, and he read the encyclopedia as a hobby. We did everything together including creating a worm farm to sell to the fishermen who passed my house on the way to Lake Erie.
Michael came over after school because his mom worked and mine didn’t. Our play was a mix of boy things and girl stuff especially playing house in the one room structure on our property which we decorated with old furniture.
One day I was later than Michael and when I arrived “at our house” he had created a surprise lunch for me. The table was decorated beautifully. The centerpiece was a vase of flowers, probably Mrs. Cerne’s again, which surrounded a statue of Mary. He had carried dishes from his home and used his small allowance to buy us chips and sodas with fruit picked from my grandpa’s trees. Michael had used the time I was at swimming practice to do something generous for someone else—me. The lesson was clear. It was one of love and care. He repeated this kind of loving service and I followed in doing the things that made Michael happy as well.
Michael and I shared a deep friendship over the many years until he died at 60 of heart disease. We loved each other deeply and his continued concern never failed me.
When I think back on that day of our first luncheon, I recognize the threads of love already beginning to weave the fabric of a lifelong garment which held us both in the warmth and care of real love. Quite unlike the messages of the world, or my school friends, all of which implied romantic connections, I learned the lessons of real love from my friend, Michael. Though our lives changed, we moved away, Michael to marry Jan and bring six children into the world and my choice of the Ursulines, the lesson held.
So, in this month of valentine cards , hearts, and chocolate what is Michael still inviting me to seed into a world so in need of the kind of love he understood at a very young age? I believe there is no better explanation of that kind of other-centered love than that which we find in 1Corinthians:
LOVE IS PATIENT; LOVE IS KIND.
LOVE IS NOT JEALOUS, IT DOES NOT PUT ON AIRS, IT IS NOT SNOBBISH.
LOVE IS NEVER RUDE,IT IS NOT SELF-SEEKING, IT IS NOT PRONE TO ANGER;
NEITHER DOES IT BROOD OVER INJURIES.
LOVE DOES NOT REJOICE IN WHAT IS WRONG BUT REJOICES IN THE TRUTH.
THERE IS NO LIMIT TO LOVES FORBEARANCE, TO ITS TRUST, ITS HOPE, ITS POWER TO ENDURE.
LOVE NEVER FAILS. 1CORINTHIANS
Thank you, Michael for all the lessons of your loving ways. It is with gratitude that I recall your presence in my life. It is with prayer that I thank God for that presence that let me taste the delicious flavor of true love. May we celebrate love this month in ways that heal our wounded world and bring us closer together. Amen.