The past couple years have been weird. I don’t know what it is, but I feel like I’ve known more people who have been blindsided with life-altering events than ever before. Most of these tragedies have centered around death, but some have consisted of job loss, broken families, imprisonment, loss of home…
You get the idea.
I’ve always sort of waffled over how to deal with these things as an outsider. To be honest, my gut reaction is to look away. To pretend it’s not happening. To go on with my happy little life and ignore the pain that is tearing someone to shreds right next to me.
That’s right: when someone is hurting, my instinct is to look away.
Because it’s too hard. It hurts too much. It’s uncomfortable. I don’t want to feel their suffering. I don’t want to cry for them. I don’t want to worry about painful things happening to me. I want to give my toddler a snack and turn on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and start dinner while my baby coos happily in her bouncy seat. I want to be blissfully immune to anyone else’s junk.
This was my attitude–until today.
See, I have an old friend who is currently enduring a situation that is so difficult, I can’t even think of a sufficient word to describe it.
Heart wrenching? Gut stabbing? They seem too cliché.
Does their pain burn? Does it sting? Does it feel like having all of your bones broken? Maybe, but even those things seem to fall short of what this family is going through.
The writer in me–that section of my brain that excels at creating images with words–is at a loss.
Without going into detail, I’ll tell you that this friend expects to lose her terminally ill infant within the next year and a half. According to the doctors, there is no stopping this disease.
There is no cure.
And as I hesitantly logged on to my friend’s Caring Bridge site, wanting to know the latest but dreading what I would find…
As I read my friend’s broken words, sagged under the weight of her grief, cried over her deep desire to watch her four-month-old baby walk and hang her school pictures on the fridge and help her with homework and buy her a Homecoming dress and show her how to put on makeup and take her to ballet lessons and so many more things she will never get to do–
Oh, I wanted to look away. I wanted to stop reading, close that window, forget I ever saw it. I wanted to pretend it’s not happening. I wanted to block it out.
But then something inside me said, No.
It said, Don’t turn away. The last thing they need is for people to turn away.
How dare I feel sorry for myself. How dare I think, This is too hard to read. I want to look away. I don’t want to know what is happening.
What a repulsive response to someone else’s pain.
And so I have decided–while digging in my heels and burying my face in my hands and wishing for all the world I could just block it all out–I’ve decided to know.
I’ve decided to hurt.
I don’t say this to toot my own horn. Lord knows I’ve spent most of my life ignoring tragedy because I simply didn’t know how to deal with it. I have a vivid memory of lying by a pool, working on my wicked tan, listening to updates on the Columbine shootings. And I remember thinking, As long as I don’t focus on this too closely, it will go away. It won’t affect my life. My routine will stay the same.
So consider my horn officially un-tooted. And screw routine.
Life is messy. This isn’t heaven. If we’re going to make it through this life, we’d better stick together. God didn’t create people so they could all hunker down in their special little bubbles and hoard everything they hold dear, hoping nothing bad will befall them.
He created us to be together. To fight together. Especially when things are so hard you don’t know how you’re going to manage another breath.
So this is it. I’m done sticking my head in the sand. I will walk with my friend and her sweet baby in any way I can. I will walk with that family that lost a child to suicide. I will walk with that girl whose husband died in a car accident. I will walk with that parent who lost their job and doesn’t know how they will feed their kids. I will walk with that woman who says goodbye to her unborn children, month after unbearable month.
I will not turn away. Not anymore.
That’s a promise.
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In the world, you will have trouble. But take heart: I have overcome the world.
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