Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Friendship

Keep ‘Em Coming

People thought we were having an affair as we sat at the community pool and laughed and hugged and engaged in some seemingly very serious conversations, while snacks and towels and “look what I can do’s” piled up from the six children we had between us.

I guess they were kind of right.  We did love each other very much.  I was closer to you than almost any other man on this beautiful planet.

But they were also very very wrong.

You see, you were not my “lover,” as the gossipy types might have whispered about in the parking lot with soggy kids in towels yelling, “can we please go home now?”

You were my brother and one of my very best friends.

You still are.

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Today is your 60th birthday.  I’ve known you for 53 years, 11 months and 10 days, since the day I was born.

You were forced to be my brother, just because of sheer genetic willpower, but you chose every single day to be my friend.  I can’t thank you enough.

You taught me how to ride a bike when I was just five and you were a big giant 10-year-old.

You were the one I went to crying when I wet my pants in class at boarding school.  You told me it was going to be okay.

You were happy when I was your “little annoying sister” in the school play.  You even helped me memorize my lines.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

You told me I was super smart and could be anything I wanted and not-so-secretly told me I should go to medical school when I was older.

You wrote me a long letter from college when I was a young teenage girl encouraging me that I was valuable and to cling to Jesus during those tumultuous years after you had learned some hard lessons during yours.

You included me in your wedding as a junior bridesmaid, making me feel like a grown-up and highly important.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

You had me and some boyfriend of mine over for dinner, inviting us to share your heart and your home once you were living on your own.

You became my actual pastor once I graduated from college and you had 200+ young career singles in your care.  You taught me how to love God (even though you spit when you talked and I was sitting in the front row receiving all that lovely spray).

You co-signed a loan for my “new used” car after getting the call that I had totaled my other one.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

You performed my wedding and I’ll never forget the charge to us about the “fire covenant” we were making with each other.

You became my neighbor in a little sleepy town and we shared birthday parties and trick-or-treating, community pool jaunts (as you already read) and Christmas afternoons.

You wound up being the “watcher of my high schoolers” so that my hubs and I could have short getaways that probably saved our marriage.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

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The bottom line is this.  You were always there for me, in ways big and small, seeing me through the good and the bad and lots of the ugly.

I thought that was my favorite thing about you, but I was wrong.

When some really tough stuff came into your world, you did the most incredible thing of all.  You allowed us to reverse roles just a little bit and made it okay for me to care for you the way you had taken care of me for so many many years.

Because of your humility and your bravery, I finally saw you, the amazing, kind, strong, faith-filled, vulnerable, tenacious, loving man that you are.  It only made me love you more.

You, my friend and confidant, my cheerleader and my brother, are one of the best people I have ever known or will know.

The only thing that could be better than knowing you ALL of my life is if I had known you ALL of yours.

Happy Birthday!

KEEP ‘EM COMING!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Friendship, Grief

Grief – One Friend’s Journal Entry (For Steven)

“True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self.  The pain you experience from the death of the person you love calls you to a deeper knowledge of God’s love.  The God who lives in you can speak to the God in the other.  This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.”  (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)

Grief.  Most of us try our very hardest to shy away, or even run away from it.  We question what to say when someone is grieving.  We are unsure how often or even if to “bring it up” once life supposedly goes “back to normal.”  We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or what the other might need from us.  Should we come close or give the other space?  It can be a very confusing time for everyone.  And truthfully, if I can speak candidly about myself,  I don’t like to be in pain or be with others in pain.  It’s just downright uncomfortable.

The past couple of years have been filled with family and friends who are grieving.   And like most things in my life, I am not an avoider.  I want to throw myself headlong into the process, engage in it, learn from it, deal with it.  After all, it’s fairly new to me and I’ve heard that it’s horrible, sacred, beautiful intimate, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.

I lost my own sister-in-law, Denise Maret, just under a year ago, after a year-and-a-half long battle with colon cancer.  My brother and 19-year-old niece are left to raise my nine- and ten-year-old nephew and niece, along with the help of their grandparents.

My friend lost her precious brother to suicide.  He has left behind a wife, three children and two grandchildren and her heart is broken.

Our friend and former babysitter lost both her dad and her husband to cancer during her two pregnancies and she is left to raise two young children alone.

I reconnected with someone on Facebook who lost her only son to teen suicide.  This was the second time she lost a child, the other, a daughter, in early infancy.

A friend from church battled kidney cancer for many years.  His wife faithfully cared for him, only to lose him.  He missed his step-daughter’s wedding by only three short months.

One of my best friends from high school lost both of her daughters, her only children, in a tragic car accident on Good Friday.  They were only 19 and 20 years old, absolutely stunning girls, one only 10 days away from her college graduation.

You have your own stories.  So much horror.  So much sadness.  Grief multiplied.

This is probably where you want to click off, log out, go find puppy videos on the internet.  Me too.  At times.  But not today.  Come with me.  Lean in.  Learn along side of me.  Today, we will catch just a glimpse inside the world of my friend, Annie, who lost her baby brother to suicide at just 51 years old.  I promise you that it’s not all horrible.

When she first shared this journal entry with me, my heart was filled with horror, joy, sorrow, connection, injustice and comfort.  Yes.  All of those things.   Loss feels raw and sad and terrible and wrong, but also sacred and beautiful and precious.  Entering in to the pain allows our hearts to be touched with a deeper knowing and beauty that we will miss if we click away.  I ask that you would read on.

Annie’s Journal Entry on 6/17/2017.  Four months later.

Steven is gone.  He is gone.  He is gone from me.  How can this be?  How can he be gone, just gone?  I don’t feel disconnected from him . . . but definitely disengaged.  He is not here to hope, or dream, or plan for a future together.  All those things are gone.

My connection to a future here that includes him is gone, and nothing will take its place.  It is an empty space…and it will stay empty.  It is a space that holds his absence and my missing him.  My own future will always hold this empty space.  I am suffering.  I will suffer, but I will not be destroyed or left desolate by an empty space.

This empty space where Steven is missing is a sacred place.  I would rather have this sacred, empty space than no space at all.  Our love and connection to each other created a space for our future together.  If there had been no love and connection, there would be no space – – and I am thankful for it, for our empty space . . . for my empty space.

I am thankful for all the other spaces, the other spaces that are full – – beautiful, cherished spaces filled to bursting with love and life and memories.  Memories of the two of us.  All the precious moments we had together and apart-but-connected.  All the treasured memories we had together with others.  Those spaces are filled up and will stay full . . .
nothing will change that.

I don’t have you with me now my Steve, my beloved Steven, but I am forever grateful for you – my one time little brother, my forever friend.