An Open Letter To My Dying Friend

Aaron McHugh

I have a friend who drives asleep at the wheel. His wife sees it, his friends watch and I know he used to acknowledge his chronic behavior. Fifteen years later I think he lives in a sleep-like state no longer outwardly struggling to admit how much he wants to be awake. His wife says, “he won’t change.”

Years ago, I witnessed him come to for a few months. He was thinking about taking a job that would require a total deviation from their current way of life and he was so excited and hopeful. I don’t recall the details, but either he didn’t ever really apply for the job or somehow the dream fizzled out.

Either way, he went back to sleep. He’s incredibly talented, generous, witty and powerful when he chooses to be. Decades of slumber appear to numbed his senses. You could try to talk him out of it in hopes of jarring him to awareness. I’m not sure if it would help. But please give it a try.

The problem is that he has a beautiful life with a beautiful family and a great career. At face value, it appears there is nothing wrong. Those closest to him know that his current reality is a dismal glow of the fullness of what he’s made for-and so does he.

An open letter to my dying friend

Brother, I see you and I can only hope that someone or something will snap you out of your perpetual slumber you call a life. Outwardly you could win all types of awards for most reliable, most steady and full of integrity. But what about you, the man? Where are you? Do you remember when you used to laugh so hard you sounded like Santa Claus?

Remember when you lived in the tension of what you most desired and your current reality? The tension seems to have vanished. Not because you are content with your life, but because you’ve shut down, stopped caring, stopped dreaming, stopped longing for something more. You have an incredible heart for the people you love most, yet your heart for yourself seems to have withered.

I wish you to awake. Come back to us. Don’t throw in the towel. Don’t tap the buzzer. Don’t say “this is just the way I am”. Wait. There is so much more time left on the clock. I fear you’re becoming most of what you vowed to avoid simply because you’ve given up.

I know there isn’t a magic bullet or spell breaking word to speak, but I know you’re still in there. I know the deepest part of you is still alive, still lucid, awake and curious. Only you can choose to come back to us. Only you can willingly enroll your heart back into your daily life. I’m so sorry for the pain, the loss, and the heartache. I promise you there is a path forward where you can hold the tension of the pain and simultaneously a new hope.

I pray you will choose a wholehearted life well-lived knowing all of its pitfalls, risks, and uncertainties. I promise it’s better than the certainty of dying a slow death from the inside out.

With you and for you,
Aaron