Wednesday, July 4, 2012

grieving my best friend

Our mourning is nothing more than an indication of our attachment to this material world.  If we are people of faith, then we must not let grief get the better of us.  Of course, it is a natural response to any ending, the death of a loved one being particularly final.  As I reflect on my own grief over my best friend, I have been able to dissect it into two observations:  1) I grieve because I miss her.  The realization of not being able to be with her or talk to her leaves a void in my heart.  2) Likewise, this realization makes me keenly aware of how little control I truly have over what happens in my life, and this prospect is scary.

With the latter observation, I've known for some time that I need to work on turning my life over to the Lord and letting Him have control of it.  My friend's passing is just forcing to the surface what has been true all along.  I did not bring myself into being, and I do not control when my time on Earth is done.  It is a waste of time to dwell on this truth, because there is nothing that can be done about it, nor should we want to change it.  Knowing that God is in control is comforting.  He, being all-knowing, knows what is best for me in the long run, even when I don't see it yet.  He, being all-loving, only allows those things that do benefit me in the end, even if they hurt in the process.  He does nothing differently than any human parent would do for their child.

With the former observation, I think what becomes useful here is the adage "time heals all wounds".  The funny thing is that I did not talk to Rachel every day during our friendship.  At best, we probably averaged a proper conversation once, maybe twice, per month.  Lately, with the addition of social media networks and texting, we were in touch a bit more frequently, but still not daily.  And yet, now that she is on the other side, I think of her every day, and I miss her every day.  Every day, I am reminded of her, and I can't figure out why.  I can totally understand why her husband would long for her day in and day out - she was a part of his daily existence.  But why me?

The theory I'm going with is that this missing of her that I feel has to be needed in order for me to DO something.  It must be required as motivation or inspiration for something.  The Lord is able to use any circumstance for His holy purposes, after all.

I'm aware of my need to make myself available to her husband as he mourns her, even though it hurts me to talk to him since it reminds me that he can't put her on the phone.  But of course I'm sure the feeling is mutual.  Yet I know that I may give him some comfort, having known Rachel for so long, being able to relate to a lot of her quirkiness and ideals.  I'm so glad that the Lord had blessed her with such a wonderful husband.  She didn't have the best luck - or taste - in men before him!  :)

Shortly after she died, I tried my best to honor her on facebook.  I shared photos and observations about her, and I reached out to other people who knew and loved her, feeling a bit closer to her by touching base with someone else she was close to.  It was amazing to hear the various testimonies at her funeral and realize that I actually did not know the whole Rachel!  This was something I think we all realized.   She was such a multi-faceted person, with such a rich diversity of interests and hobbies.  Yet one theme stood out loud and clear in all the testimonies:  Rachel was a woman of God, an example of Christian charity.

Almost in spite of myself, I started compiling a eulogy of sorts for her.  I had no idea if the format of her final arrangements would include an opportunity for me to say something or not, but I found it therapeutic just to put down on paper (ok, on screen) what I would like to say about her.  Lo and behold, her husband did ask if I would like to say a few words, and I was honored that he thought to give me a little bit of the floor.  When he greeted me the day of her funeral, he said what Rachel must have told him about our friendship: "The one and only!"

I know why Rachel was my best friend.  She always made time for me.  She was always truthful with me, but never judged me.  She took interest in my interests.  But why was I her best friend?  I was not as good a friend to her as she was to me.  I don't think so, anyway.  She had been asking me to come visit her and see her new house for 3 years before I finally booked  my flight.  Granted, I always had the excuse of our differing schedules, but still.  Yet perhaps our friendship was only half merited on our own efforts, and the other half strictly circumstantial.

I met Rachel in high school, and she was the only one of my friends that my parents trusted to drive me (I didn't get my license until I was 18).  After we graduated, she was the only one of my friends who seemed to have the same idea I did about what it meant to have graduated - we're free!  We hung out at Denny's a lot, just talking late into the night.  When I finally turned 18, we went dancing at clubs together, pretending that we were "a couple" when either of us got some unwanted attention from a strange guy.  She showed me her world, which was so different from my sheltered upbringing.  I truly felt like I was growing up in her presence.  Granted, she corrupted me a little bit ;)  But maybe that's precisely why I enjoyed her presence so much!  She made me feel good about myself.

But actually, this intense time together was a rather short part of our friendship.  After graduation, I spent 5 months with my extended family in Poland.  A year and a half after I came back, we were both on our way to different lives - me to basic training for the Army (in Ft. Jackson, SC), she to college in Florida.  The remainder of our friendship remained long-distance.  We were at each other's weddings and 30th birthday celebrations, but other than that, I pretty much only saw Rachel when she would come up to visit her family and by virtue of proximity, me too. 

Still, for some reason, none of my other close friends shared themselves with me the way she did.  She trusted me to understand her, and I trusted her to understand me.  So when her husband asked me to say a few words at her funeral, I could've drawn on countless stories, some that may be better if they remain untold ;)  But being given a strict time limit (which, by the way, I seemed to have been the only one to adhere to!), I tailored it down to the essentials.  Rachel loved Spanish, and that's how we met.  We had an inside joke that involved my native language.  She was an angel in disguise by virtue of her selflessness.  That is Rachel to me in a nutshell.

My mom didn't think I could pull it off.  Frankly, she should've been right.  I made a speech at their wedding 7 years earlier, and it wasn't very audible or comprehensible.  I was so overtaken by emotions, I couldn't get through the words properly enough.  Not sure if anyone understood a word I said, and that had been a happy occasion!  How on earth was I going to get through a eulogy?!  Yet I was determined to share my little piece of Rachel with those who had gathered, and I only had to pause once to blink the tears out of my eyes and clear the lump from my throat.  I could've said so much more. 

The irony of her passing has not gone unnoticed.  She died the day after the final word of her year-long drama with betrayal (see "last conversation with my best friend"), as if her work on this planted was completed.  She had a feeling that this was the month she would finally get pregnant, so I wonder if she was picking up on a spiritual sense of a big change upon her, and just misreading what it was.  Her funeral was sadly on her 7th wedding anniversary.  Her husband did a beautiful job of addressing husbands and challenging them to cherish their wives.  He also took the opportunity to invite those in attendance to come to Christ, just like Rachel would've wanted.

And boy, were there a lot of people there!  There were many others that couldn't make it, and still others whose lives she's touched that probably didn't even know of her passing.  She had made such an incredible impact on the people God put in her life.  As her father said, "she packed a lot of life in her 34 years."  Indeed, she lived life to the fullest, and I think this is why the Lord was happy with her and called her home.

Matthew 25:23
Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!

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