We all have the need to be loved. It’s a basic and human emotion. Some of us in that search find love in all the wrong places. Some of us are blessed and come to learn that we are loved in spite of what we do or don’t do to earn such devotion.

As children, we need, we long, we crave our parents’ love. As we grow older, we seek love and understanding from trusted friends and sometimes peers. And older still, we place our hearts out ahead of us, some even wearing theirs on a sleeve and pray that it won’t be broken, bruised or battered on our journey through life. It’s not an easy thing. It’s not meant to be.

I’m a bit nostalgic on this particular day, perhaps even a bit morose. In thinking of all the people that pass through our lives, there is joy and endearing laughter for those that touched up deeply. Sadness, too, for those we embrace who took a distant and far away turn, not looking back and there remains a longing for what might have been.

Life can twist in the wind and turn on a dime and we tend to bend with the prevailing winds. There are few second chances and if we are fortunate enough to have someone love us for who we really are and not who we pretend to be, then it is a love we need to cherish all the more. I cherish my wife and son for that reason and am truly blessed, more than I can say.

These are especially hard times that we are living through where hate and angst have stepped to the forefront and overshadowed mutual respect and understanding. When fear becomes the root of our anxieties, it is love and understanding that become the true victims of unrelenting and mindless rage.

Over the past year, I’ve lost some dear friends due to illness, age and misunderstandings. Misconstrued motives, perceived slights and inward traumas that undermine trust and the ability to share, forcing some to push away, are just as devastating as having a loved one taken from you by illness and death.

Some old and dear friends are in limbo for all of the above reasons. Yet we have a choice: Embrace those we love and cherish or remove them from our lives because  haunting pain restricts our hearts like a strangle hold gripping our soul, defeating any goal to be free of heartache.  The former is in our control; the latter when all is said and finally done carries with it guilt, regret and remorse.

There have been times when some have slipped out of my life before I’ve had the chance to tell them what they’ve meant to me and just how much I love them. Thankfully, there are those who have come back into my life through time and by choice and allowed me the chance to voice my feelings. In that, I’ve been quite fortunate and the sentiments are all the more endearing.

We weigh our hearts through perception and perspective.

In the Wizard of Oz, the all-and-knowing Oz bestows upon the Scarecrow a brain which he had all along. The Lion receives a medal for courage, which was always there in his soul, and for the Tin Man, a heart that runs with the rapt beat and precision of a rescue pup that knows he’s found a caring family and loving home.

I’m reminded of Oz and his sage advice for the Tin Man:

“As for you my galvanized friend. It’s a heart you want? You don’t know how lucky you are not to have had one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable …. and remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

For our own epitaphs, the legacy we choose to leave behind is our own choice to make. It must always be one that comes from the heart.

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