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The words of your ghosts shouldn't be taken lightly.

“The Love (any Love!) that God lets into your life is a Grace. It can be paid forward, but never paid for. Don’t waste it.”

Those are the words of one Brian V. – well, his ghost’s anyway. Brian was a precocious guy from the KC suburbs when I met him in the late 80’s. He was a son of one of the engineers at a large greeting card company. He was a national church youth leader, a great writer, and … my first. First friend I ever let edit one of my 5-paragraph essays, too. I’ll always love him for that. Even if I flaunted too many rules for his taste.

Brian accomplished a great deal in his life. The role in our church, a communications degree from Mizzou, an International MBA from South Carolina. He picked up a high level of fluency in Japanese in there somewhere, and earned his business stripes during a long posting in some Prefecture. Later in life he became a teacher – San Diego’s Teacher of the Year, even. (2005, I think.) Brian left us in 2010, after his umpteenth round of cancer. “Died reading a book,” his widower told me when I found out and called. Bri had left instructions for what to say when I did. He knew I would.

Something changes in a person when they lose close friends earlier in life. When the person you shared the first fumblings of adulthood with goes, the effect is even greater. Suddenly, instantly, you’re no longer a young adult. You’ve seen things that qualify you for being old – even if you’re not even 40 yet.

You start seeing ghosts. I did, at least. Hearing them, anyway. Not real ones, either. Non-corporeal, friendly ones. Nothing грозный or worthy of fear. Just voices in your head. All you have to say is “I wonder what Bri would think of all this,” and suddenly he’s there beside you. And you just know. It’s like your better angels granted you an audience, and they are unwilling to move on from spectating until you hear what they think you need.

For what it’s worth, I have quite a few of these ghosts, and they’re not always subtle. (Herman Cain’s -- Godfather's Pizza's real Father -- is particularly opinionated and obstinate.) Brian’s has been visiting often lately. Reminding me that Graces are actual gifts from God, not to be turned down or traded away. “If one is called to use their skills to pay love forward, Jeffrey, then get to it! Do it already, and do it well! ‘Bigly!’ … or whatever English bastardization is popular these days. … Jeff. That. is. why. you. are. still. here.”

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