Saturday, November 17, 2012

Held

I'm sitting in McDonald's playland, fingers salty-slick, refusing to regret the Big Mac. I have friends who would shake their heads if they knew what I'd just eaten. Well, it's their loss, I guess, because right now I taste freedom in two all-beef patties...

The kid are somewhere in the tunnels. My sisters-in-law sit knees-to-knees with me, talking shop. All my questions grab hold of an answer.  I shrug off yesterday's worry, or at least I do right now, right in the neon glow and the echo and the carbonation of this small hour.

Somewhere between my story and hers, the phone rings. I can't believe I heard it, buried low under all of this. I'm sure it's Cory.

Only I've missed it, and it's not.

Something in me says to do it, so I grab the phone and walk out the door, into the dining room where people drink coffee and kids wear their shoes. I call her back, the news is bad, we sit together crying in separate time zones, each with a phone to our ear.

A white-haired lady leaves her table and comes to mine, quietly slipping a brand new packet of tissues across the table-top and I remember again that it's not so normal to ugly-cry in a McDonald's booth. Her kindness pushes down on the sore. I cry harder, right into her willingness to notice the hurt around her and do something about it.

The middle of this story isn't mine to share, but the edges are. They're mine. Is it wrong to feel the bloom of incalculable gratitude in the face of profound loss? I bear the smallest corner of their burden, the one way over at the fringes. I carry it quietly, unsure of how to help, very certain that I can't.

I don't know the right way to grieve this loss. But I feel some of their pain and it wrecks me. It keeps on wrecking me, and I carry on with my life over here, my heart breaking from the shrapnel of theirs while I paint the walls, toast the cheese, dole out the meds.

I never did anything to deserve this - one family stitched to another by the only One who ever knew how much we would need their exact kind of love. So we hurt with them, not because it's the right thing to do, not because we understand much at all about how they feel tonight. We hurt with them because our hearts are neighbors now so we just can't help it, some of their pain bleeds over to where we are.

They have shown us much about the face of Life, the heart of Christ, the beauty of unexpected community. They have made us thankful in life, thankful still in death.

He holds them. He holds them well and with ease. My prayer, my every breath, begs that they know this, that they find their empty hands grabbing on to it right now in the dark.