The day after my wife died, I sent an email to a group of friends asking them to meet me in the church fellowship hall 30 minutes before her memorial service. I told them we would save seats for them up front in the sanctuary and that they would all walk in together, united. I wanted to be able to look over and see those I knew would usher me through the intense shock and pain I was experiencing.
I also told them that they were the ones, like it or not, who were stuck with me, that I needed them to stand by me until I got my feet back up under me.
I think I underestimated their "sticktoitiveness."
Last week, on my 50th birthday, five years after her death, this incredible group of friends threw me a surprise party. They rented out the second floor of a bar and filled it with the people in my life that I love the most. When I walked up the steps, there they were, this incredible group of folk, who genuinely care about me.
It sort of blows my mind. I haven’t been as good to them as they have been to me. Man, am I blessed.
This past week, I was in Greenville, SC, speaking to a group of YMCA staffers. After my talk, a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes. She said, “I’ve heard you speak before. I just want you to know that I keep you and your girls in my prayers.”
Maybe that’s why we’re all doing really well!
As I write, tears well up from my gut. They aren’t tears for loss. They are tears of knowing that I can never repay what has been given to me.
When praying, I sometimes struggle to remember those around me who hurt. I forget the guy I met with a few weeks ago who recently lost his wife or the high school buddy who has been diagnosed with cancer. They roll through my head on occasion, but I don’t have the same level of persistent, perpetual care that others have had for me.
My friends and family could write the handbook on caring for those experiencing grief. For them, it isn’t a short story. It’s an epic novel. They’ve been working on it for five plus years. I have this feeling that it will go unfinished.
-Bruce H., community friend