When I was a chubby tweener in black glasses and braces, I wanted to be Barbra Streisand. I wanted to belt out her signature song, “People,” in an evening gown and fancy hairdo to an appreciative audience at Carnegie Hall.
Yeah. Right. No chance, Cheerio Breath.
But lately I have been living some of those iconic lyrics:
. . . We’re children, needing other children,
And yet letting our grown-up pride
Hide all the need inside. . . .
Yes, my head knew that “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” But my heart forgot that.
My best friend died, suddenly, a few months ago. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. I loved and admired Cindy so much. She was one of the few people who “got” me, made me laugh, built me up, shared my gardening fervor, and just saw things exactly the way I did.
I guess because my friends and family are used to me being the jokester, they conveyed their condolences, but immediately moved on, expecting my next wisecrack or whatever. Of course, many people told me they were sorry, and I appreciated that. Being of German descent, though, I was a big believer in keeping a stiff upper lip and all that.
But deep down, I was sinking into the mire of undetected grief. Nobody knew it – except Mai Mai, our black Lab. She would watch me with those doe eyes, and come up to me and push her head into my hand, so that I would pet her. She knew Mommy needed TLC, even if Mommy didn’t.
What a boob. I knew better than to bottle up my feelings. But with all the strife and problems of covid and the rioting and general nastiness in the world right now, a middle-aged lady’s grief over losing her best friend just seemed too minor to dwell on or talk about. So, I bottled.
I would see a cardinal, the ad hoc symbol for a visit from a departed soul you loved. I would say, “Hi, Cindy!” But then I would bottle.
I would encounter a garden problem, and wonder what Cindy would advise. But then I would just deal with it, and bottle.
I hid inside a bunker of my own making, hiding from my feelings, for fear they would make me collapse under their weight. But you can’t do that. Feelings are for, well, feeling. You need sunlight and air. And tears.
So then another dear old friend came by last week, kind of out of the blue, just to catch up. I was hugely impressed to hear that, because of all that’s going on, she has been praying for 2½ hours a day. Now, that’s a prayer warrior!
She asked how I had been feeling about losing Cindy. I gave some socially-acceptable pooh-pooh answer, and changed the subject. But this is a true friend. She wouldn’t let that stand.
So she typed out a beautiful, beautiful letter to me. When I got it, the dam burst and I had a good, cleansing cry:
“I have to say that after I left your house I could tell that you had a heavy heart. Not because of anything we talked about but because of the sadness and grief you are experiencing right now because of your tremendous loss of your good friend Cindy. I could hear it in your voice and see it in your eyes. I can’t imagine not being able to say goodbye to someone you love and care about so much!
“I know you have a broken heart and that your sadness is still so palpable. Cindy was a great friend to you and you were a great friend to her. That ‘punch in the gut’ feeling will take a long time to go away. But it will eventually go away. . . .
“So please know you are in my daily prayers. Please know that God sees your heart and knows your deepest thoughts and desires. He will help you through this time, Susan. But remember, it’s all in God’s timing.”
Wow! Exactly what I needed to hear, at exactly the right time in my grief process. That’s what you call “being Jesus” to somebody.
I couldn’t believe how strong and sweet and healing her words were. I will be forever grateful:
Lesson #1: Don’t bottle.
#2: Get closer to God by praying for a much bigger part of your day than you do now. Then you can be sensitive to other people’s needs, the way He is.
#3: Never hesitate to do what you can to console someone who is hurting.
People who need people – and act on that truth — really are the luckiest people in the world.
And you can count on that, Cheerio Breath. †
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
By Susan Darst Williams • 7/26/2020 • www.RadiantBeams.org • © 2020