Sunday, September 10, 2017
Bracelets, Cards - Signs of Love in Times of Loss and Illness
Choking back tears with a solid lump in my throat, I walked into the busy mall on Sunday afternoon. My mission was not pleasant and I wished I could be anywhere, but shopping at a mall.
My friend, Ann, and I have known each other since June of 1989, when Mike was assigned to pastor the church in Vincennes where Ann and her husband, Chuck, attended with their three children.
Shortly after we moved, Ann and I drove a group of children to church camp. We brought our own youngest children - my four-year-old daughter, Anna, and her three-year-old, Margaret - along for the ride.Soon these two were playing with their dolls in the back seat of Ann's van, beginning a friendship that would last the seven years of Mike's appointment.
Ann and I had a lot in common - faith and family were our priorities. Eventually, my oldest daughter, Sarah, became one of Ann's children's favorite babysitters. Our families were connected in many ways, sharing experiences in church and often during the week.
Bracelets, Cards, and Tears
Ann was the only person who came to say good-bye to us the day we moved in June of 1996. That was a sad day, one we both were dreading. However, we continued our friendship through exchanged letters, birthday and Christmas cards, and an occasional visit.
When Ann's beloved father died, I sent her a bracelet along with a note of condolence. When her dear mother died, I sent another bracelet and note. When my parents died, she sent three bracelets that are pictured above.
Now I was looking for a bracelet to honor her husband, who died six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.
I cried so hard at home when I heard the news of Chuck's passing. He was a respected doctor in the community as well as being a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. I wondered how I could get through the jewelry counter of a store fielding inquiries from helpful sales clerks.
Perusing the jewelry counter in three stores, I finally found a bracelet - one with two silver strands clasped together - a perfect visual for the devotion and love Ann and Chuck shared.
At home, I wrapped a note of love and prayer around the box containing the bracelet, drove to the post office and sent the package to my dear friend.
More Cards, More Tears
My trip to choose a bracelet wasn't the first time this summer I found myself in tears at a store. In late May, a friend of my youngest daughter was diagnosed with cancer and given two to four years to live. At age 33, this diagnosis was devastating. Off I went to the Hallmark store to purchase a card for him and for his mother.
Standing in front of rows of cards, "for serious illness" I started to cry.
"How am I ever going to make it to the check-out counter and pay for my choices with tears coming down my cheeks?" I wondered.
After looking at many cards, considering their words over and over, I finally made two choices. Sniffling, dabbing my eyes with a tissue, clearing my throat, I managed to pay for my selections and make it out the door.
Compassion, Comfort, Companionship
Life brings these moments that touch us to our core. Sudden illness of seemingly healthy people awakens our compassion and channels our desire to help in any way possible to bring comfort and offer companionship along a road that has more questions than answers - a path that brings deep loss, sadness, disbelief, despair and grief.
How do we manage through these days that are tough to navigate? Psalm 46:1 offers immediate direction - "God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble."
On July 30, I wrote how how God gave me four ways to stay solidly connected to God during an extended time when several people about whom I cared deeply were experiencing significant illness or challenges in relationships. I refer you to that link (see below) as those directives continue to lead me through each day, providing me with strength to face whatever comes my way - grief or joy, happiness or despair, longing or hope.
Prayer: God, these days keep us seeking You with every breath we take. Inhaling Your presence does help by offering strength and the ability to persevere when times are tough. We can weep and lament in Your presence for we know You receive all of our needs and thoughts with love. Wrap us now in Your arms, hold us close, remind us we are loved by You, for in You we can stand firm in faith and be sustained all of our days. Amen.
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