This morning, within 30 minutes of each other, I received a text from a friend that a local young man named Luke died of childhood cancer and a call from another friend that my neighbor was having surgery.
I didn’t immediately think about my own Luke, and thank God that it wasn’t him. I wept for Luke’s parents and brothers. For their permanent emptiness and the courage it will take to grieve.
About my friend, I thought, “that’s awful, how can I help?” not, “why didn’t she tell me?” I share this not to brag about how wonderful I am, but rather, to offer two thoughts.
First. Healing is possible and thank you for your help in my own healing journey. Years ago, amid my own grief and its corollary of self-absorption, I would have made my friends’ tragedy- and it is that- about me. Or, I would have diminished her experience altogether. Saying something (to myself at least) cruel like, “well, at least they caught it early.”
Second. A gentle suggestion. If When you are in the same situation- because tragedy finds us all- respond with love and empathy. Offer to help. Some of us believe that among #HurricaneHarvey, #DACA, #HurricaneIrma, the wild fires in the PNW we are in tragedy right now.
Grief was supposed to make me kinder, softer around the edges. It has. Healing is possible. But It’s one hell of a road. And you must do the work. You have to stay on the mat, as my friend G says. Stay on the mat. Don’t hit the easy button. I’ve learned that deflection and comparison are my easy buttons. I’ve also learned that they’re thieves. They steal people of their own grief and they rob me of the chance to be kind, to be a friend, to be a Christian, a fellow human.
Healing doesn’t mean “over it” or forgetting. I will never be over L’s diagnosis or the collapse of my career, or the betrayal of friends…or whatever events mark my life as before/after.
Healing means using my grief as fuel, instead of as a weapon. Healing means letting things impact me without defining me. Healing means action.
They will know we are Christians by our love. And love is a verb. Love and prayers are awesome and they helped us. They continue to help me. But don’t stop there. Too many of us Christians pray and think that’s enough. Pray, of course. All the time, for everyone. Pray to be inspired to act.
I donated to St. Baldrick’s in honor of Luke. Some friends and I are rallying to create a schedule to help our friend with housecleaning and meals. I hope you will feel inspired to act as well.