I was first honored in that it was I who was so undeservedly given the privilege to escort and walk alongside this beautiful woman—so grief stricken and numb—as her hero’s flag-draped casket returned to American soil for his first and final military homecoming. She wept and I wept along with her. She saluted her boy (a man really—but still and always to her that tiny little boy she once held in her arms and nursed at her breast) and I, in my heart saluted her. I ached for her. I ached for all five families of those heroes that day…and I was changed.
I was honored a second time, and a third, and a forth…each and every day really since that fateful day last February. The honor arrives each and every time I receive a phone call and hear her voice on the other end, “Do you have a moment? I really need to talk right now.” Do I have a moment?! Is she kidding?! Could there possibly be anything more important right now than sacrificing the only thing in my life that might help in some minute way to assuage (if only for a moment) the grief she carries deep within her soul every single moment of every single day?! Of course I have a moment!
Eight months later another of my girlfriends’ father passed. And I was so humbly blessed with the honor of driving her three hours north to plan his funeral, see his face and kiss his cheek…one last time. She talked. I listened. We cried. I could not have known her pain. After all, I still have my father. But I walked alongside her as she grieved. How pathetically insufficient I must have been! She wanted her daddy. But all she got was me. And while she grieved, I changed. I hugged my girlfriend tightly and kissed her cheek. “I love you my friend. If there’s anything I can do for you…”
I reentered my car. Rather than returning home, however, I proceeded northward—another five hours journey—to the home of my cousin. Eight days earlier she’d lost her soul mate, partner, and lover of twenty years. The Lord had called home her young husband after only 42 short years on this earth. Snow covered the ground as I exited my car, walked over to her and placed my arms around this hurting, grief-stricken new widow. In the five short days that I shared her home with her, I sat and listened as she recalled their stories of dating, marriage, troubles and even those irritating little habits of his that drove her absolutely nuts…and that she missed so dearly…now. She’d no parents, no siblings and now, no spouse. I had all three. She had memories…and grief. Her life was changed forever…but so was mine.
As I began my silent eight hour trek homeward my mind began to replay all of those losses my friends were forced to endure in those short months. I contemplated their new lifelong journeys separated from those whom they loved and wondered what it all meant. I know I probably should have felt grieved. I wanted to feel grieved for I figured if I felt their grief maybe they’d feel it less. But I did not. I felt honored. I felt as if I had somehow been chosen for some different purpose. I wasn’t certain what that purpose was. I still don’t. Quite likely I never will. But my mind continued “Why me Lord? Why did they call me?! I mean, who am I?! And what good was I? Did anything I say or anything I did do any good at all? Did it serve any purpose? Did it ease any pain? Did they shed any fewer tears? Oh dear precious Lord, I love these women! They are so beautiful! They are so hurting. But they are so, so very strong!”
For some reason though, in my ignorance of a greater purpose in all of these losses, I somehow felt a greater sense of peace. I mean, in my lifetime I’ve been so honored to share in the joy of witnessing the birth of three brand new lives into this fallen world…and this world is absolutely nothing compared to the celestial and eternal world we all hope to one day enter. So how could I not somehow feel an equal sense of honor at being able to share in the joy of another’s departure from this world into that most perfect and pain-free world of the Eternal? I mean, could there be any greater honor?! These precious, grieving women chose insignificant, flawed and powerless little me to walk alongside them during their darkest hours. Or did they?
I’ve thought about grief and loss nearly daily since that first day when my journey with the grieving first began. And while I am not God and could not possibly begin to know fully His ways, I am His daughter. And as such I have learned a bit about how my Father—our Father—works in our lives. From what I’ve seen and learned through walking with these women, it is not they who chose me but the Holy Spirit who takes over when they (when we) are too numb, too distraught or too grieved to do so ourselves. When one member of the Body of Christ is aching or crying out the Lord immediately sends in reinforcements to come to her aid, to be His arms, His shoulders, His ears…His peace. When her son was called back home to his Heavenly Father, that same loving Father did not leave my friend’s arms empty. He sent me. Of all of His sons and daughters who He knows, loves and cherishes, it was me He chose to bring His loving comfort and peace to my grieving sisters! Me! Who am I Lord that you chose me?! I am so unworthy, so flawed, so imperfect…but oh so honored. Oh yes, Lord, I will go! I will go! Just show me the way! I am so insufficient, Lord…so imperfect…so flawed. But I trust you to give me the right words—or silence my tongue. You have never left my side before and I know you won’t leave it now. Oh, and Lord…thank you for trusting me. I won’t let you down Lord. At least I hope not. I promise to do my best to be Christ to my sister. I really, really do. Thank you for choosing me. I am honored.
Like each of us who has been honored with the call to sojourn alongside the grieving, I didn’t earn that honor. No, it had been bestowed upon me. And while the grief stricken friend, cousin, mother, father, colleague or spouse might have reached out to us in their time of need and sometimes might even feel guilt for calling us “too” often or crying “too” much, it is keenly important to remember that we bestow the greatest and most intimate of honors upon those with whom we choose to share our grief—an honor which is such a rich yet undeserved gift of grace…and one that made me a better woman.
I’m not sure how much good I did or how much peace I was able to bring into these women’s lives. Hopefully, the Lord will have found me worthy and in His infinite wisdom might see fit to call on me again. But I do know that I did my best. I answered the call. I stood by their sides and I will continue to do so each and every time I hear my phone ring “Hey friend, it’s me again. I’m having a moment. Do you have time to talk?” Do I have time?! Of course I do. I’d be honored.”