There is an old Nigerian proverb that says, “When you find a friend, hold onto them with both hands.” I felt so firmly held by the kind grips of my friends following my sister, Fran’s, unexpected death. Good friends have wonderful nourishing powers.
Fran left behind a wonderful husband and three precious children. She would be so pleased with what incredible people they have become. Their dad has been an excellent nurturer and provider of constant love for them. I do not want Fran’s death to be in vain, and I desire to have good come out of something so tragic. If I could raise awareness for the beauty of friendships and taking extra special care of them, I would not feel her death was for naught.
Fran, with her intelligence, kindness and great wit, was a master at nurturing her friendships. The evidence of the love that she generated was clear in the faces of the 1500 people who turned out for her funeral. She not only had beautiful porcelain skin on the outside, but a rare and precious porcelain heart, as well.
The loss of a loved one creates a soul-ache'”a violent emotional yanking on the heart and a labyrinth of overwhelming confusion. Grief resolution is a complicated journey. You know that your heart will hurt forever, but there is hope to be “whole” again. You realize that your friends and family are your lifelines. Allow yourself to step out of the cocoon, so they can be your support system. You have a complete understanding of how important it is to be good to them while they are here to enjoy. Take advantage of every moment. If a relationship needs repair, repair it now. Listen to them. Tell them you love them more than they will ever know. You realize that in the great tapestry of life, we must embrace the knots and learn from them. It makes the silver and gold threads in our lives that much more beautiful.
Each person who suffers loss is on their own to find the right balm to make their unbearable pain bearable. It’s a private, personal journey and we must be allowed to resolve it in our own unique way and in our own time. You must keep in mind that it is imperative that the balm be found. Our lost loved ones would want us to move forward with a peaceful heart. That’s why they are called your loved ones — they love us. Do it for them. You are left with a heart that is full of tears and it blurs your vision to see that life can be good again. You want to feel a part of the world again, but you don’t know where to begin. It is a complicated process that involves creeping slowly, slowly on your hands and knees. With the steady “cane of support” from friends and family you are able to walk bent over. Finally, it culminates into walking upright as you realize that life can be good again and that God is good.
I will warehouse for sentimental posterity’s sake in my memory bank the incredible outpouring from my friends who enabled the grieving process to be more bearable. On the night of Fran’s death, some of my Meredith College friends drove in from all areas of the state to spend the night with me. It turned out to be a pajama party of love and something right out of “The Big Chill.” These dedicated friends turned a night that could have been so miserable into one of fellowship'”a night of which Fran would have approved.
One friend drove up after painting a room in her house that day. I noticed that the bottom of her feet were white. I asked her what it was to which she replied, “It’s paint. When I heard about Fran, I put the paintbrush down, picked up my keys and drove straight here!” I so appreciated having a “drop everything and go” friend and I will cherish it for a lifetime.
I used to always notice the light on at my good friend’s house who lived behind me. It always gave me great comfort to see the warm, friendly glow each night and knowing he was there. I had once shared with him how comforting it was for me. When I returned from Fran’s funeral, I had a message from him saying, “I’m going to leave my light on all night so you’ll know that I’m here if you need anything.” I couldn’t help thinking this was the kind of friend that Fran was-a “leaving the light on for you” kind of friend.
Have you ever found yourself fumbling awkwardly for the appropriate words to say to someone who has suffered a great loss? This same neighbor friend provided me with the most touchingly appropriate words when he said, “I never knew Fran, but I want to come over to your house so you can tell me all about her. I want to know all about her whole life.” I was so touched by his extraordinary thoughtfulness. It is etched in my memory as a balm that helped soothe the pain of grief to make an unbearable pain bearable.
Fran’s obituary mentioned that in lieu of flowers, love your family and embrace every moment. Being the kind of friend and sister she was, she would want this valuable message of love and the beauty of friendship to be passed along for posterity — go and hold your friends kindly in both hands!