This post is going to be about friends and grief, and grief and God's presence in the midst of pain---I think they will tie together…at least they seemed to germinate from the same thread of thought inside me.
Friendship is hard…very rewarding, but hard. Married people know this. Marriage is supposed to be the ultimate friendship, I think—but few are. Todd and I were, in addition to many other things, very good friends. I am thankful for that, but I also know that you have to be one in order to receive one. I am blessed with more good friends than a girl deserves, but I will also say, that I think that I am a good friend to them as well…although, lately some of them may be feeling they are getting the short end of the stick. That is sort of what real friendship is about…you both give and receive all you are able. To be a good friend you must determine what is for the good of the other, not necessarily what makes you feel good. You must determine what boundaries will best help a healthy friendship grow. You must speak the truth in love. You must forgive the unavoidable hurt. When you care deeply for someone and live closely in community with that person, you WILL hurt one another…it is our human condition. I don't believe many "real" friendships exist without being tested and proved worthy of the effort of tending the wounds.
It is hard to witness a dear friend grieve. I don't mean a porch waving friend. I mean one of those "real" friends. It is probably up there with some of the hardest things. It is scary to be confronted with the raging anger and the all-consuming pain that seeps from every pore of that person. It is just plain difficult not to want to rush in with platitudes and fixes…because you care and, of course, you want to fix it…but some things just can't be fixed. I can remember several angry outbursts in the first month of my loss. What I remember most was the gift these friends and family gave me by allowing me a safe place/relationship to have these outbursts. I couldn't have pretended, but if I had feared they couldn't handle it, I would have cut myself off completely…and that wouldn't have helped me heal one iota. The first outburst I can remember occurred with two friends who received the angry, screaming barrage of "How can I ever be okay again? I will NEVER BE OKAY. I SAW MY HUSBAND GET SHOT IN FRONT OF ME—HOW CAN YOU EVER BE OKAY AFTER THAT?" I could tell by my friends faces they were totally at a loss, but it never occurred to me that they couldn't handle it…because I needed them to be able to handle it. Thank God, they did handle it. I have no idea what we said or talked about after this. I just have the memory of relief of not having to hold those thoughts in any longer. I did temporarily cut myself off from friends who lived in Dyersburg…I just couldn't deal with anything to do with my home (that wasn't recognizable as my home any more). These friends were grieving too…they all knew and loved Todd, and I had shut down in so many ways. But, by God's grace, they did not abandon me. Unbeknownst to me, they continued to regularly check on me through other friends and my family. They knew I couldn't talk on the phone, so they would text me daily…never expecting anything in return…they just waited…patiently…for the day I would return to them. I guess deep down, they probably knew I would return to life….they just had no idea how long it would take. I will say it again. It is hard to be the friend of a person suffering tremendous loss—to be able to stand in the face of their anger…to have the strength to listen to their pain without trying to fix. I am thankful that I have been blessed by a network of such friends and family.
This leads me to the second part of this post. I don't have answers to so many things, but I do know this. I could not "not believe" in my loving God (who loves Todd every bit as much as He loves me) any more than I could stop breathing. How else could I ever explain that I watched my husband, whom (with my children) I love more than any other on this earth, get shot just feet away from me, get shot myself, and hear the gunman shoot his own teenage daughter and not remain bitter, and angry and stuck? How else can I ever explain that I have been able to forgive? It is only His grace that allows this in my heart…there is NOTHING natural about being able to emerge from this tragedy with anything remotely resembling contentment. Now it has been very difficult and painful to get here, but I have no doubt Who has done this work in me…and it is NOT me. (My only part has been not to refuse to let Him do this work...which I certainly could have because He always gives that choice to us.) And it is not just me…there are countless adults and children who face the aftermath of loss and tragedy with grace and peace—crediting a loving and tender God as the reason…it totally defies logic.
The only guarantees that I can see in this life are that we will have trouble, that anyone who dares to love deeply will suffer hurt because of that love, and God promises He will not leave us nor forsake us. I believe He has honored that promise in my life and in Todd's life. Thank you for letting me share my heart with you through this blog. Thank you for your help in my healing. I will close with the blessing I pray over my beautiful children most nights. The LORD bless you and keep you. The LORD make his face to shine upon you…and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)