Last night some Westside women joined me in my living room for a sweet hour of prayer. We prayed for Kara, Jason, their babies, their parents and family, friends, and everyone who is touched by Kara’s life. And then one of the ladies prayed for my baby boy, who is particularly attached to Kara. And I lost it; I cried the ugly cry, snot and tears mingling as they inevitably traveled to the corners of my mouth, the saltiness reminding me of bitter tears of grief shed in years past.
I would say I’ve had my fair share of grief, which has taught me many life lessons, one being that there are few safe people in this world and just as few people who are willing to travel the long road of mourning with you instead of expecting you to get over it and move on with your life.
That is why what happened last night was impactful—never have I experienced grief in community, in unity with so many people.
Isn’t that why funerals, memorial services, receptions are important? They provide a place for all the mourners to be together to cry and laugh and process grief together. But then you all go home, you all have to figure out your new normal, and that unity tapers off as the texts and phone calls get fewer and farther between.
Yet as one of my closest, favorite friends moves closer and closer to her Homecoming, I find myself surrounded by people who are experiencing a grief just like mine. In fact, I can’t think of a single person in my immediate circle who doesn’t at least know of Kara and her story, who isn’t praying for her and praying for me.
Every day I get two kinds of emails or texts regarding Kara. One is people who don’t know her personally but want to know how she is doing and the other is people who want to know how they can love me in the midst of this awful goodbye.
What? This is new to me.
Texting with friends and my sisters, we talked about our tendency to withdraw when faced with such deep pain. When asked if I felt numb, I said, “I think there is an element of grief that numbs us out of necessity—there are so many practical things to do, and if I indulge my sadness, those things won’t get done. My tendency is to withdraw and bury my feelings just to survive.”
And while I pray against that—pray that I will move toward Jesus and Aaron, in particular—I am reminded that I can’t withdraw. I am not allowed. Too many people are reaching out to me every single day to love and encourage and care for me and my family. There is no way I can stuff my feelings away. My community won’t stand for that; they are instead standing by with open arms and generosity of heart.
So this is the Body of Christ. For years I’ve wondered what it would be like to experience such intimacy with my church. I would rather Kara stay with us than find out how wonderful it is to be loved so well by community. But this is our story, this is God’s story. Our communal grief is beautiful, awful, powerful, a game changer. Not only am I not the same person for knowing Kara, I will not be the same person for losing her (temporarily until I am reunited with her), and I will not be the same person for walking this road with our church family.
And so we clumsily, unitedly move toward each other in this suffering. We will cling to each other for breath when Kara has said goodbye, and we will numbly discover our new normal afterward as we continue to be faithful in the mundane, fighting for Grace in our grief.