I moved through the morning, noting the earthiness of spring and the lingering smell of new lilac blooms as I walked mask-less into our sanctuary. It was the first time in over a year that I wasn’t worshipping over Zoom, and I was so glad. The message was on relationships—focusing on marriages, I briefly glanced behind me wondering how at my three single sisters would fare. Our pastor injected humor and good scriptural advice on respect and loving well, and it wasn’t just for marrieds, thank goodness.
It has been a season hard on relationships.
Being cooped up with a person who holds my heart has humbled me and brought me to my knees daily. We couldn’t be more opposite in so many ways but together love for our children, friends, and our great God has sustained us.
But as the service came to a close last Sunday, I made my way back to my sisters. One of my friends sat in the middle. Her face streaked with tears. It has been a year since one of our best friend, and her husband, died. I have mostly seen my friend only through the Zoom screens weekly and scads of texts. I swallowed back my tears as I hugged her. She grieves daily, sometimes spending a whole day in a storm that breaks and flows with an intensity that leaves her gasping for her next breath.
My one friend left quickly, my other friend, grabbed my arm and said, “I’m worried about her— my second year was harder.”
I muttered something to the effect of, “We all grieve differently.”
I think. How will I grieve if I lost Dave?
I step back into my friend’s grief, only for a moment, and feel helpless. Helpless to help with her grief— helpless, except for listening and hugs.
And then Dave and I continue up the aisle. Step into our car to continue our day of buying my mom’s favorite annual that Dave plants yearly so I can remember. My ‘master gardener’ tries to convince me of another variety of pink this year, but I decline. The right color always brings back her sweetness and her soft heart. Maybe a plant would help my friend too.
Later, a newer friend, from down the street stops by. We have been helping our feisty Irish friend, after her husband’s passing. She is frail, and her eyes well up as she shares the bulletin from her husband’s funeral. We have never met her husband, because they lived in his house the past year because he was sick and she cared for him in familiar surroundings. She had been only married a bit over a year but together much longer.
She is a delight, has a story for every occasion; a divorcee who raised her three children alone for many years, before meeting her beloved. Today was no exception. She told us her son didn’t want her to have the microphone during the service because he felt she would be too emotional.
Suddenly our newer friend grinned, “I didn’t listen to my son after all.” She sighed, “You know, I just grabbed that microphone and this is what I recited…
Crossing the Bar by Alfred Loyd Tennyson
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home!
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that, the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourn of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
Another pause and a deep breath, “God, my pilot, gives us strength sometimes, and I guess what? I didn’t even cry.”
Then it struck me… emotion is good, grief, though complex, puts us in a place of remembrance, and our memories bring life and strength. Joy does come in the mourning and the yearning. It helps us take shaky steps forward, knowing that we will be with our Pilot in the end, and grateful for all the loves we’ve had on our journey.
This is so good. It’s very difficult to know what to say or do. I love how you show that everyone grieves differently, and all the different ways we can be there for each other.
Very sweet to remember all these things you mentioned. Especially about our very good God who is a promise keeper.
Such a beautiful reflection on grief… should you have to walk the road your friends are walking, our God, your family and friends, and words like these will sustain you, though it is a long and stormy journey