Amorist (noun): A person who is in love or who writes about love.

I’ve been seeking The Amorist: A person who is in love or who writes about love. I thought that when I finally found this person, I would be cured of heartache; I would be able to pull the chunks of heartwreck from my body and salvage what was left of my insides. In doing so, I would be able to create a new, magnanimous person capable of giving AND receiving real, true love—someone who could move through loss with grace and transcend death as though nothing is ever truly gone.

Instead, I found my quest was not for love, nor for strength or self-betterment, but rather I was seeking to numb the gaping holes in heart. I wanted to quiet the seeping memory of loss, to deny my body’s reaction to pain and force healing through a concept that I was not ready to accept.

What I have come to understand is that The Amorist is not something you can chase, nor can you catch. The Amorist does not appear on command and cannot be manifested through a rabid desire to be healed. Rather, The Amorist is something we grow into as we develop self-love and compassion for others. In becoming The Amorist, we begin to value ourselves and accept our own vulnerability. This honest approach to self acts as a conduit for reciprocal love.

My friend Trey Owens considered love the greatest subject of all, and he encouraged the people in his life to seek The Amorist within. Trey taught me to find muses, to dream but live in the present, to imagine the things that bring me closer to happiness, to health, to being the Amorist, and to pursue those things with honesty, transparency, and generosity.

The cancer that lived in Trey and took him from us in early 2013 caused him such intense pain, yet he responded with endless love and compassion. Trey’s miraculous story is of his compassion for others. Compassion itself is derived from suffering. “Compati,” the word’s Latin origins, means to suffer with. “Trey lived in his heart,” recalled his mom, Deb Raden. “If there was ever a moment when he was not in pain, he wanted to be with people; he wanted to be out sharing his love and his search.”

To Trey, existence was constant movement forward. He felt intensely the pull of life and death, the cycle of laughter and the tide of crying, and he realized at a very young age that the spirit inside of us is forever swimming. Trey never wanted to get out of the water. When he passed into the invisible beyond, what remained was the essence of his swimming—a life immersed in moments.

Trey taught me to keep swimming. He helped me widen my heart and fill my lungs with songs that heal, with the words of the wise, and to quiet the noise in my mind that kept me chasing ghosts.

In death, Trey left behind so many warriors that carry his spirit and his boundless love forward. I’ve seen him on the walls of galleries and in the tips of paintbrushes. I’ve heard his story in the voice of hip-hop artists who called him professor and on the tongues of poets who talk of love personified. He is embedded deeply in the mosaic of our community like a quilt where we’re all sewn together as one.

We’ve all chased The Amorist, seeking those moments of unfiltered honesty and genuine connection to bring us closer to love. Yet to become an Amorist is to understand that love is not a race, and the love we manifest for others cannot come without the love of self. Being an Amorist is to feel another’s suffering as keenly as one’s own and be moved to compassionately reciprocate the love we’ve been given. Being an Amorist is being in honest, unmasked, beautiful love.