Down those old ancient streets,
Down those old ancient roads,
Baby there together we must go
Till we get the healing done.
These were words whispered across the vapor, trailing between cell phone towers like they were nothing.
I had envisioned it another way. I thought, when I packed my car to see her one last time, that I would have a letter to read to her, or a passage that spoke clearly about the promise waiting for her, or something, anything to shed some light on this occasion awaiting us all. There had to be a way to make sense, to say, “Ah, this is why, so it’s okay.”
But there wasn’t that sense, and I pulled into her driveway with nothing but my heart in my hands—afraid that I would mess up one of the final moments in her earthly life. We spent most of that visit with my hand on her cheek and her hand on my arm. We stared at each other, memorizing, memorizing. And she whispered things that she needed to whisper and I listened. She was my friend and I hung on her every word.
There are not many guarantees in our lives, but one that is heart wrenching in its certainty is that we will lose people that we love. When I was your age, that concept floated in the realm of things that would never happen to me. When a few friends lost parents, I watched them to see how they made it through each day. I couldn’t imagine a more difficult fate.
And I catalogued all the ways in which they humbled me with their grace and their peace in the face of sorrow. When my own parents each faced life-threatening illnesses (with courage that only comes from the Lord) when I was a teenager, I began to get a taste of how hard life on earth can be.
The fact is life will go on. It just will. And we all need truths that we can remember easily and hold firmly when our emotions are making everything in our heads fuzzy.
I take these gems from a study of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the grief she endured on earth, and from the experiences and actions of Mary Magdalene when she lost her dear friend, Jesus.
Draw strength from your own experiences. You’ve already made it through some hard things and you’ll make it through this.
“His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”
“’Get up,’” he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’”
Just be in the moment. You will never regret the minutes or hours that you spend at the feet of someone you love who is dying. They will have things they need to say and you would be wise to listen.
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother . . . when Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
Love them enough to let them go.
Mary had a firm understanding of the bigger picture. There is more to existence than living and dying on earth. She loved her son but, with the grace of God, she let him go.
Allow painful feelings. The more you feel, the more you heal.
“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’”
Get busy. Go for long walks. Find a way to help others who are in need. It helps, I promise.
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to do the things that were expected when a loved one died. She chose to stay active, keep moving, and help out where she could. She was able to help her friends in their grief when she carried the news that Jesus had risen.
Talk about it and remember the person you’ve lost. I read once that human beings need to talk about traumatic experience at least one hundred times before they can begin to heal. “There is no grief like the grief that does not speak.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Mary went immediately with the disciple after Jesus’ death. She was not alone and she had concerned friends around her.
Mary Magdalene, the disciples, and others who followed Jesus were together grieving and then rejoicing. They talked about every detail. Two other important things you should remember when you’re facing hard times—
Rest and eat healthier than you ever have.
You might feel like you’ve lost control of everything, but these two things are in your control. Rest. Chill. Eat right. And know that you’re doing something good for yourself.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”