I’ve often heard people describe the strange fog of walking through days after someone they are close to dies. The world seems to go on as normal. People driving in their cars, stopping and filling them with gas and walking into the grocery store as if it were the same as any other day. Buses running on schedule, television anchors reporting the news with no mention of how their life has been turned upside down. It’s as if the universe forgot that something monumental happened.
This week I had a friend going through a crisis, a time when her life felt upside down. It had to do with her child, his safety, and all she could do was wait. Wait for news. There was nothing she could do. And there was certainly nothing I could do. So I waited with her. Not physically, but emotionally, spiritually. For two days it went something like this:
In and out with my breathing; I prayed.
Text my friend. So she knows I am remembering.
Turn on the TV and stand in front of it without really listening.
Walk into the kitchen.
Breathe. Pray again.
Get out the tub of chocolate ice cream. Eat some.
Try to hide it from the toddler, but give her some when she discovers me spoon in hand.
Give her seconds. Then thirds and fourths because I’m so glad she is with me and safe; I’ll give her anything she wants.
Think about texting my friend again, but decide against it since I don’t want to burden her with MY anxious feelings.
Pray for peace. For my friend. Her husband. Their boy.
Check Facebook and wonder why everyone seems to be going on about football predictions and life as usual.
Talk to my kids about why I’m crying.
Let them watch their fourth TV show of the day. Whatever they want. They’re home and safe.
Text another friend.
You get the picture. My anxious energy in the waiting, kept me pacing and praying. Because that’s what we do with our friends. I had texted my friend earlier, Anything, I’ll do anything. And I was sincere in my offer. Laundry? Watch kids? Coffee delivery? But I knew all she wanted was good news about her son and that was out of my control. So my messages turned to those of friendship, mom solidarity. I’m so sorry this is your reality.
When we journey with friends we often are surprised to stumble into their pain. I was there, right there. And how I wanted to fix something, make a small part of the fear better. And the blaring reality was all I could do is say I’m with you. I’m with you in the worry and the what ifs. And I’m praying. Sometimes, that’s all a friend can do. And though it feels like nothing. I know that side-by-side care is something. Because I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of love. Of a step, by step, walk next to each other kind of pace. Where that hand is there to break your fall if indeed that is where you are headed.
This time the story ends well. Later that afternoon my tears were those of shared relief. That the news was good news. I was oh so thankful I could say to my friend, I’m with you all the way. I’m with you in the celebrating too.
Alexandra Kuykendall is the author, The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir. While she spends most of her days washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma, she manages to snatch minutes here and there to write about the quest for purpose in it all.