And as she spoke of her Lydia, all the Sunday morning fellowship noise in that church suddenly became silent to me.
Her little first grade beauty had been diagnosed the prior year with an inoperable brain tumor. As the details spilled forth, I listened and I waited ... for the happy ending.
But the tumor was still there. Treatment was over. The season of waiting had begun.
Stacey's voice was full of hope and she had such a sense of security that I did not find myself searching for a sympathetic response. I did however, find myself drawn to her, her lovely family, and her sweet and sincere faith.
We stopped for lunch that very day at a Mexican restaurant on the way home and lo & behold! That cute little Byrd family was already there :) We joined tables and the blessing of our friendship journey began.
A blessing indeed.
I have likened these last few months to something like soldiers sharing time together in battle. Strangers only for a moment. A quick baring of souls.
There wasn't time for shallow conversations or insecurities.
God made a way for intimate conversations. Lengthy conversations.
She and Willie were on the front lines. I waited in the trenches with countless others, ready at a moments notice to respond to their needs. So many who love them have been faithful to pray and also stand ready to serve.
Having a front row seat to this sort of trial has provided special insight in ministering and caring for a grieving friend but:
1.) I am no expert. I'm just a friend. A very broken and humbled friend who hopes to share in some way that might encourage.
2.) My experience (as well as theirs) is unique, as is every single grief process.
3.) We are at the beginning of a long journey. As we reach different milestones I assume that the process will change shape and with those changes, needs may be different as well.
Molly Piper (daughter-in-law to John Piper) speaks about grief after the loss of their first baby girl, Felicity. I urge you to take the time and read through the series that she has written about helping a grieving friend (click on the red bolded words) While Stacey and Willie are on a different grief journey from the Pipers, much of what Molly writes about really resonates with them and their experience thus far. She has shared, far better than I could, how this difficult burden can be made lighter with the sweet love of caring friends.
My own grieving process is almost 20 years old now. I was 19 when my mother passed away from cancer ... my little brother was 12. She was my whole world.
These tips resonate with me too.
Grief is careful to hold a place in your heart ... it's familiarity almost mocking you, as if you thought it was gone forever. It is common ground for mankind and reminds us quickly that we are in great need of rescue. And here we have common ground for the believer ...
Our rescuer has already come! And death does not have the final say.
With the promise of salvation and eternity with Jesus, we have to claim joy and thanksgiving as often as our hearts can be convinced!
One last bit of advice if you find yourself in the precious position of caring for a friend who is grieving. Avoid the downtrodden face, sad voice, and forlorn or gloomy demeanor ... especially when making initial contact or when the family is out in public. It takes a great deal of courage to face the everyday world when your everyday has forever been changed. The last thing that a grieving person needs is to be quickly reminded that their presence makes people sad. Rather, be a reminder that God promises beauty for ashes and joy in the morning! He intends for our broken hearts to be healed and what better way to start than to be a loving encouragement.