This is a hard post for me to write tonight. And I'm writing for purely selfish reasons, which is the last reason I should be writing, given the subject of this post and the example that has been set for me today. Selfishness has no place in this drama I have watched play out over the last few days. And yet, here I am, with my high maintenance ways, selfishly working through my issues at the expense of my readers. Sorry...the grief is too much to bear alone.
The service was full of spiritual moments and incredible music that sounded as if it had been flown in on the wings of angels. The people who were there to support this dear family, including those of us in the congregation, offered our hearts and our voices, doing our utmost to usher in a feeling of love, reverence and faith though melody and lyrics that brought even the strongest man there to his knees.
As I struggled to maintain even a modicum of composure, thoughts raced through my head at a breakneck pace. How does a person even begin to deal with the loss of a child? How does the babysitter ever recover from the guilt she must be feeling? How is my friend still standing and talking? Why has she not fallen to the ground by now in a broken, sobbing heap?
I stopped to think about that last question for quite awhile. The question arose when I watched my friends get up to speak about their son. The father did such a great job of supporting his sweet wife. He was trying to be strong for her, for his other children. He spoke with great tenderness, then broke down for just a moment. As he regained his composure, he had no more words, so he turned to his wife - my friend. She stood there in front of a few hundred people with quivering lips and swollen eyes. That's when I wondered if she was going to collapse under the weight of the situation. I watched with tears streaming down my own face as she put her hand out on the podium to steady herself. Two or three times she opened her mouth to speak but no words came out, only choked back sobs. She hung her head for a few moments and her shoulders shook visibly as her body tried hard to fight back the grief. We all felt her pain and sat helplessly, offering our heartfelt love and support through silent prayer.
After a few moments, she stood up straight, wiped her tears, took a deep breath and stepped up to the microphone. She had a renewed strength about her. It was her Mom Strength kicking in. It's that strength that magically appears when we are beyond exhausted and longing for peace and sleep, but we keep going because a sick child needs us. It's the kind of strength that allows you to sit back and watch your child make mistakes, even when you know it will cause them great pain. It's the same strength that God gives you to keep having babies, even when the pain is so unbearable that you think it might kill you. Her Mom Strength was getting her through this. And with everything she had, she began to offer up her thoughts, her memories, her feelings, her testimony and her thanks to God for the precious gift of motherhood that she had been given. She recognized that it had been their privilege to bring that sweet little child into their home and thanked Heavenly Father for blessing them with the opportunity to share in their son's short life here on earth.
And then, this incredible friend of mine, this broken, hurting human being, did the most humbling thing I have ever witnessed. She looked to the babysitter, who by some miracle had managed to drag herself to what I can only imagine must have been the second most torutuous event of her life (the first being the horrible drive backward out of my friend's driveway), and thanked her for taking such good care of their son while my friend went to work each day. She offered her love and condolences to the caretaker, knowing that she too must be consumed with grief and overwrought with sadness. My friend did the most unselfish thing a person can do...she reached out and offered a hand of forgiveness to someone that others might have cast off as unlovable because of a life-ending mistake. There was no hate, no harsh words, no blame. Only solace. My dear, sweet, incredibly strong friend rose to the occasion and offered the ultimate sacrifice and example of Christ-like love. She laid her anger at the alter so that everyone could heal and move on.
You would think I would leave there trying to live up to my friend's example of strength. And yet, here I sit, in my own selfishness tonight, sobbing like a baby. I lost nothing because of this tragedy. In fact, it opened my eyes and I gained a much better perpective of what matters and what doesn't. But I still sit here with giant tears pouring out of my face...horrified at the thought of having to go through something so traumatic with one of my own children; racked with guilt that I did not make a bigger effort to spend more time with my dear friends since moving from that little town; overwhelmed with homesickness and a desire to move back to the only place that ever felt like home; heartbroken for a friend who suffers so greatly and for whom I can do nothing to ease her pain; and finally, feeling incredibly moved by my friend's selfless actions. All of which keep the tears flowing. I guess this is how I process. I write and I ramble and I cry.
So thanks, dear readers and friends, for indulging my need to sob on your shoulders. I hope I cry enough tonight to wash the selfishness and grief away so I can be a source of support for my friend and her family. She gave me a great gift today when she offered up her example of courage, faith and selflessness. I would like to return her the favor.