Wednesday afternoon. That time of day when my energy is low, and I need to be getting in the kitchen to start dinner. Just a little down time first, I think, just a minute, and log in to facebook.
Skimming over the news feed, my eye trips on the first line of an old friend's status...
Lost a dear friend today but rejoicing that he is with our Lord.
My heart stops, then a thump of panic. No, not... but I read on, and my worry turns to sorrow.
I read the words over and over.
was so kind
I will miss him
lost a dear friend today
with our Lord
I stare at the screen. My throat is squeezing tighter and my heart is flopping like a fish on land. Because it happened. What I have feared for three years happened.
I have lost a dear friend. Who was so kind. And I will miss him.
But I didn't tell him. I didn't even know he was sick.
My disconnect from this kind Texan gentleman, who took two wide-eyed young Yankees under his wing long ago, was bitter fruit of a painful parting from my beloved church home three years ago.
Shall I bore you with a theological treatise on the problems of church schism? Shall I unload the grief of that parting here? Like an old scar, that scab has fallen off now, the wound part of the shaping of this child more into the image of her Holy Daddy.
Behold, he makes all things new. What the enemy intended for evil God has worked for good. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.*
I did not wish it to be as it was, but the circumstances were beyond my wishes. I did not wish it to impact relationships, but life has a way of making one choice ripple out like water and cause even small things to bob. And some to float away.
My dear friend whose post brought me sad news is one of those we left, but she, and many others from that time in our life, comfortably navigate social media, and we have reconnected through facebook.
Our departed friend was 78. His was the world of face-to-face. But we lived an hour away from each other. I wasn't going to run into him in the grocery store.
Why didn't I call him? I can't answer that question. I hadn't forgotten him. I thought of calling many times.
If I drill down deep in my heart, I find there something worrisome. It is a fear. I think it might be named Rejection. I turn that idea over in my mind and wonder how that could be. Never once did he do anything even hinting at it. Yet time and pain have a way of wrapping things together that I don't quite understand.
And in the center of that fear are lies...
not good enough
Saturday morning. I am driving alone in my van to the city. As the minutes tick by, I find myself feeling a growing sense of dread. Soon I will be at the memorial service. Will I be able to hold myself together? Will I be able to hold myself up?
As I turn into the parking lot I catch a glimpse of the back of a not-seen-for-three-years head and my hands begin to shake. I draw a breath and it comes jagged, catching in a constricting throat. Why is this happening? Why can't I just be calm?
I park and pray and try to reason with myself. Be sensible. Be calm.
It doesn't work. I pick up the phone and dial my prayer partner, my spiritual EMT. With gentle yet strong words she settles the oxygen mask of prayer on me and I begin to breathe normally again.
I take up my bible, clutched between crossed arms like an old teddy bear, and walk to the front door. I begin to see familiar faces. I exchange quiet hugs. And then I see his beloved.
I walk over to her, inexplicably nervous. I put my hand on her arm and she turns.
Patti! she says, a smile brightening her tired face. And I know that I am welcome. We exchange brief words, I lean in to hug her, and she whispers I never forgot you.
I am shaking now. My hands trembling, my eyes overflowing. Through a blur I race to the bathroom where my whole body shudders with sobs. I am a muddle of emotion...
grief... joy... pain... love...
I pray, and amazingly, there is where I leave my tears. A gift of grace allows me to walk back, with my red nose and eyes, and sit calmly through the service. It is a time of remembering. Remembering our friend, and remembering what God's word says about his forever life. Singing "Amazing Grace"...
When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun.
After the service, there is a reception. Friends and family members gathering to reminisce and to catch up. A swirl of people. Repeated questions: How ARE you? Still way out there on the farm? How are the kids?
It is love. So much love.
I sit with older friends and talk and listen. I hear about frustrations, being stuck at home, not being able to drive, missing grandchildren.
And I realize they are afraid of being forgettable too.
I grab that thought with both hands. My heart cries "I will not forget them!" I ask if we can come visit. I make sure that the whirling blur that is my young family will not overwhelm. I confirm phone numbers, emails, addresses.
Later, at home, I worry that the rushing current of life will distract me from doing what I feel an urgent need to do. So I look at the calendar, pick dates, write emails, make plans.
The current never stops. It just gets faster.
Hear my story, friends. Let its truth sink into your heart. Time is passing. Your love is needed.
Please, don't wait.
Don't forget. The days are short.
*Revelation 21:5, Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28
photo credit bjwebbiz