Today, I got a message from a special friend of mine overseas whose three year old has just spent two days in hospital. Her little girl has some as yet undiagnosed cardiac and respiratory problem.
The day before, I got an email from another close friend who found a lump. We’re waiting for results.
This past week, another friend had to rush her husband to hospital at 3am after he inexplicably collapsed unconscious.
Last week, I sat with a friend whose marriage is on the brink of collapsing. They have two kids.
I must be honest, tonight I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. I don’t even really want to write about what I feel or think because compared to what these friends of mine are dealing with, it can only sound trite. My words feel pale. Pale and weak.
Isn’t that so often what we feel when open up that message, or sit across that table from someone in pain? Maybe we say,
“I don’t know what to say.”
Maybe we don’t say anything.
This evening as I caught up with my mom after her trip away, I was telling her about these friends. I said to her, “You’re probably used this by now, Mom. These hard, horrible things that just seem to happen all at once, to such good people.”
And this is what my mother said…
“I’ve learnt to accept it. I’ve learned that it is inevitable. That pain and hardship is inevitable. I’ve just come to peace with the fact that we are each going to suffer in some way. But if you can get through it, if you can manage to get through, you realise that it’s because of this suffering that we grow. It’s because of this pain that we mature. And when it’s over, you never forget the people who cried with you. You remember the text messages, and emails, and you know that you are loved. Sometimes all you need to know when you’re going through terrible pain is that someone is thinking of you.”
(My mom just busts out profound stuff like this while we’re watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver)
“But Mom, you kind of have to believe that. Otherwise what other conclusion can you come to than the world is just a shit place?”
“Jess, for me it’s true because I’ve experienced it. It’s not just something nice I tell myself to get through hard times. I believe it because that’s how it happened for me.”
We went onto speak about an old family friend who was on holiday in the States and she had a terrible horse riding accident. She still can’t walk properly. Her husband was in the Kruger National Park at the time, and it took them three days to track him down to tell him what happened. She told my mom how when she was lying in that hospital bed, alone on the other side of world, wondering why this had happened to her, she’d get a message from someone miles away…
“Thinking of you. Praying for you. Love you.”
And she said that’s what helped her to hold on. Simply knowing that there were people thinking of her and praying for her.
Simply knowing she was loved.
I don’t know what your faith is, what your thoughts on spirituality are, or what you believe about God. But I do know that no matter what you believe, what people need is love. When their kid is in hospital, or he’s waiting for test results, or she’s about to walk out on him – they need love.
So say something.
Send the message. Pick up the phone. Drop off some food. It doesn’t have to be profound or life-changing or have all the answers. It really, really, REALLY doesn’t need to be advice. It just has to say “I love you”. Maybe tell them a few reasons why. Maybe share your favourite memory you have of them.
But say something.
As my guru Glennon says, We can do hard things.
But “we” can.
When you say something, you make their hard things into our hard things.
Together, we can do hard things.