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I have a good friend named Darren. He is a really terrific guy; one of the best people I know in fact. Darren loves Lana. They were a great couple for several years. But then, a few years ago, inexplicably, they broke up. I never fully understood why, for it was clear they loved each other very much and they both said their relationship was truly wonderful. In fact, Darren told me it was love that caused them to split up. He explained there were circumstances that would have forced one or the other of them to make a significant life compromise in order for them to remain together. He added that either of them gladly would have been willing to make the sacrifice; but neither would allow the other to do that. He said,
"I felt like if I let her give up something important to her happiness to be with me, well then, I wouldn't really be worthy of having her. And I believe she felt the same way about me compromising what I needed to do with my life".

Anyway, Lana moved to another state - largely because they knew that was the only way they could stay apart from each other. But they stayed in touch; neither of them could give up their friendship. Darren never talked about it, but it was obvious to me that he continued to love Lana deeply. In the years since they separated, Darren has dated a little, but nothing serious. He once told me,
"I compare every woman I go out with to her and it's not fair to compare anyone to a standard of perfection. Not that Lana was perfect but she was perfect for me".
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One day I asked Darren if he thought maybe they made a mistake in deciding to separate. After all, I reminded him, they do say that love conquers all. He told me, "Yeah, I definitely believe in the incredible power of love, and I know it allows us to overcome a great many obstacles. But I also believe that love is wise and it knows that some battles are best left not fought. And beyond that, I think even though love did not keep us together, time may well show that love did win in the long run". To be honest, I really had no idea what Darren meant, but he certainly said it with conviction, so I didn't push him on it.

I didn't know Lana that well myself, but based on what Darren told me, I know she must be an extraordinary woman. Two things he told me stand out in my mind. He once said to me, after they had been dating only a short while,
"I am so mesmerized by her beauty". To which I replied, "Yeah, she is good-looking". He hastily remarked, "No, no! I mean that I am amazed by the beauty of her soul"! I guess I knew then that something unique and special was happening to Darren.

On another occasion, we were talking about what makes a good partner in a relationship. I was talking about how wonderful it is to have someone who makes you feel good about yourself; who helps you see your good qualities and all the things you do well. And with a big smile, Darren told me,
"You know, Lana is so loving and supportive, that she actually makes me feel good about my faults"!
As I said, I knew Darren kept on loving Lana years after their breakup. But I especially understood how deep those feelings ran after something that happened recently. Lana found someone else. Here's what Darren told me about it: "Lana said she had fallen in love with someone and was engaged to be married. It knocked the breath out of me. I don't even remember what else she said after that. I guess I was waiting for my heart to restart. Of course, we hadn't even been together for several years, and I always knew that could happen. Hell, it was supposed to happen! I let her go so that she could find someone who could help her realize her life dreams. And after I thought about it for awhile, I was able to accept it intellectually. I just could never quite absorb it emotionally. I don't know why. I had let her go a long time ago. So why did I feel such a tremendous loss now? I'm not really sure." I think Darren was surprised by his unpreparedness for the news of Lana's engagement. It seems to me, he thought he was over Lana more than in fact he really was. I guess it just proves the old notion that you never really know how much you love someone until they love someone else.

Personally, I think somewhere deep down inside, Darren always thought that some how, some way, circumstances would work themselves out so that he and Lana would get together again. I liken it to how some folks leave their hometown in their youth to move off to other parts of the country. But a part of them knows they are forever connected to that little town they loved so much. They draw great comfort from knowing that the haven is always there, and they can go back and visit occasionally to remember and replenish. And somewhere in their minds and hearts, they kind of know that one day they will return for good to settle down there and live out their lives. I guess you could say that when he got the news from Lana, Darren realized he would never be going back home.
Based on a True Story
I saw Darren a few weeks after he spoke with Lana, and I could tell he was adjusting to the loss of the fantasy of getting back together with her. I asked him how he was feeling about everything and he told me, "I struggled a lot with the idea of someone else living out the life I had once imagined having with Lana. I wanted to be the one who made her dreams come true, and now he would. But I finally realized that when you love someone, I mean really love them, you genuinely want happiness for them, and it's not important that you be a part of how they find it only that they do".

I think Darren is still working through it, but yeah, he's getting there. Heck, he's a bit of a writer, so maybe he'll write a poem or a story about it all and that will be a way to help him sort through those emotions. I used to wonder if he might become bitter or filled with regret that he let go of his one true love. But I don't worry about that any more. I talked to him just yesterday and he said to me,
"You know, I believe the greatest joy in life is to be loved -- simply to be loved. Well, the fact is, Lana loved me so sweetly and so beautifully that I believe it may just be enough love to last me for a lifetime". There was no sadness in his face, but a warmth and tenderness filled his voice as he went on, "So, I'm just grateful for what we had, and for what remains within me. Lana took me to a thrilling and magnificent place in my heart. I know I'll probably never return there, but I'm just glad to have gone there at all".

So the way I figure it, my friend Darren is one of the lucky ones. He has experienced great love in a way that many of us never get to, and he knows he has been forever blessed by that. And you know what else? I think maybe Darren was right. I guess, in the end, love really did win.
David L. Weatherford

When I finished this story, I took it to Darren so he could read it. To my relief, he liked the story and felt it was an honest and accurate rendering of what happened. However, he felt there was something very important missing, and he asked that it be added to the story. I decided it was best to just let Darren say it in his own words:

The times I shared with Lana were among the best of my entire life. She has such a sweet beautiful spirit, and it made me feel special to be loved by her. When we were together it seemed as if it was Christmas all year round, and she filled me up with joy. But the fact is, I also suffered through some very difficult circumstances in that period of my life. I guess you could say, to borrow a phrase, it was the best of times and the worst of times. I wonder sometimes if perhaps Lana was an angel sent to lift me and love me at a time when I needed it most. Indeed, it was by the light of her love that I was able to find my way through some very dark moments. Maybe I was never supposed to have her for a lifetime, but rather she was meant only to change me for a lifetime and that she certainly did. There is no doubt that she left me with a stronger will, a kinder heart, and a deeper soul. So I go forward, not in tears for what I lost, but in joyful appreciation for how she touched me, what she taught me, and for who I am because I was loved by her. And even if I never see her again, I will always have a warm, happy feeling deep within me just because I know she is in this world. I thank God for the gift of Lana, and I know I will surely go on loving her until the last beat of my heart.

Darren W.
A Postscript from Darren
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