Do you ever wonder how many people feel alone?
We’ve been friends for a long time. So many years ago, things were light and carefree. Easy. We didn’t stop being friends but our lives took different paths. I realized I sat back much too often. I watched the tailspin of chronic illness enter your life with 3 yr old Abby’s terminal diagnosis, and I chose to view it over Facebook. I liked your posts, I commented here and there, said I would pray for you and your baby, but I’m ashamed of myself.
Because I prayed sometimes, but I never did anything else.
Here’s what I wish I would’ve said as you walked this road:
- If I call you my friend, I should understand what that means. It means I am to show you love. I wish I hadn’t ignored you because I was uncomfortable or because I wanted to avoid loss and tragedy, even though the world is full of it. Loss has or will effect us all. I wish I hadn’t stopped talking to you because I didn’t know what to say. I would do the hard work.
- I see you. I see the soul-crushing roller coaster ride you are on and how it doesn’t help you when I say “I can’t imagine it.” So I’ll try to imagine it, imagine what it would be like to nurture a precious life that you have to watch agonize in pain, take to hospital settings for harsh treatments, and put into the hands of people you don’t know. I’m with you. I see your suffering and I am here for you.
- There were times you posted about unexpected hospital stays or procedures and begged all of us to cry out to God on Abby’s behalf. I’m not sure I took that as seriously as I should’ve and I would ask your forgiveness. Is stopping and lifting you up before the Father really going to take an enormous block of time from my day? The fear that overtook you every time Abby had a hospitalization, the consuming thoughts you likely had from how hard her little body would fight to improve from a simple virus; it just wasn’t anything I’ve ever had to think about. It’s easier to overlook the hard stuff on social media and keep scrolling to something mindless and funny instead. Because that’s what life is all about, of course: me. It’s easier to think about how this doesn’t effect me.
Oh that the Lord would break my heart for the hurting.
- I’m not sure why I never considered things like gift cards for take-out or gas or groceries. Even if I couldn’t handle coming to the room, that’s the least I could’ve done.
- I wouldn’t judge you when you laughed or made jokes or acted silly in intense moments of heartbreak. Because who am I to say what you should do? And aren’t we all human? We all need breaks and moments of reprieve and laughter in our lives.
- I recognize the intrusions in your life and I would help minimize it. People’s comments. Hospital beds. Hospital food. Strangers taking care of Abby. Complete upheaval of your life. Despair. Depression. Anxiety. I’d whisper God’s words from Psalms to you when you couldn’t find strength to read. The only way a person can grow in grief is to be in relationship with others that can help them grow. I would pray to be that person for you.
- I’m sorry I didn’t understand the balance of being there for you and giving you space. I wish I would’ve checked in on you and not been offended when you didn’t have anything to say that day. I wish I would’ve tried again later.
- I’d be more careful in my responses. During your most vulnerable moments, words are crucial because you hang on to them, good or bad. I wouldn’t say “do you need anything?” which is a nice question, but useless when you are completely overwhelmed. Instead I would say: “Make me a list and I’ll pick up your groceries.” Or “can I come Wednesday and do your laundry?” Or “How about I stop by on Friday at 7am to walk your dog?” I would invite Abby’s older brother Nathan over to play with our kids, because I understand you may feel it’s difficult balancing time with him too.
- Why didn’t I set up prayer chains for you? I recognize how trite my response of saying ‘have more faith” and “God has a reason” were in your hardest moments. Perhaps it was not the most helpful thing to say when you needed support.
Sending songs, verses of hope, and prayer- that’s what I would do now.
- That time you snapped at me? I would tell you that I understand you are having a difficult time. Instead of shirking away offended as though I had no security about myself, I would hug you and I would show you grace. Because Jesus.
- I would not try to fix it or give you false hope. I would remind you of a sovereign Savior who loves you, loves Abby, and mends all things broken.
- The desperation for a cure, the clinging to hope; I would recognize your heart was captured by one of God’s most beautiful designs: Abby. I would sense the mother’s warrior love for her child and I would stand alongside you in your fight. God does not call us to ever lose hope. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us,” Romans 5:5 ESV.
- Assumptions. Oh the hurting have so many burdens of assumptions piled on them. I would do less assuming and more encouraging. It’s easy for me to sit back and judge how I would’ve acted in certain situations or done something differently, but is that putting your best interest first? How prideful it is to assume anything about your situation when we all handle things differently.
- Often I’ve tried to find some sort of ‘happy’ moment for you to redirect your thoughts on something that I think is positive, like “at least you had…” or “at least you’ve been able to …” But I see now that it minimizes your situation. I would tell you how I admire you instead. How you have handled this situation with such grace and courage. Thank you for persevering and showing Jesus in your darkest nights. That’s what I would say to you.
- I would recognize that whatever time you have with your child will never be long enough on this earth. Thankfully we have eternity and I would try to point the situation to Christ by means of hope. But I would recognize the pain of separation here is still real for you. There’s only Jesus.
- I wouldn’t forget to talk about Abby. I would bring her up more than just on her birthday or Christmas, when I know those times are specifically hard for you. But I see now that she’s always in your mind, always in your heart, and that doesn’t take away day to day moments where you want to kiss her beautiful cheeks or sing sweet songs in her ear. I will acknowledge Abby’s being created in the image of Christ and her footprint on this earth. I will talk about her more frequently with little things I noticed or loved about her.
- I would say that I didn’t realize 80% of marriages end in divorce when they have walked through such a hard road with a child. You worked so hard to split time and attention between your spouse and ailing child. I never even noticed. I imagine it was overwhelming in your shoes to know the right thing to do. I wish I had been there to point you back to God and seek him on your behalf. We can’t be everything for everyone, but I could’ve encouraged you to lean on God.
- This Christmas I will send you a photo card with a picture of Abby on it, instead of my family. One of your favorites, just to let you know our family loves you and is thinking about her.
Let us do the work of community.
How can people view Christians as loving when they won’t reach the lost, the poor, the hurting? The strong work of walking alongside someone in their turmoil or grief isn’t easy but it is absolutely necessary. Relationships are a beautiful picture of the gospel. It doesn’t matter if you know them well or not.
Most of us know, or will know, someone who is going through the pain of a child with chronic needs, a child suffering, or parents who have lost their child. Certainly, there’s more to be said and done than just these 18 points, but maybe this will guide us look past ourselves. What are you working towards or working for in your life? What will outlast you?
Oh that we would not take this life for granted, but make our actions count for eternity.