We were sitting across a narrow table from each other, just as we had been once a week for the previous 4 weeks. I barely knew her, but we had committed to gathering, her and a few other people, each week simply in casual purposefulness. For laughter mainly, but also to stretch our minds a bit. What captured me the most, the first time we met, was her ease as she came into the room. She brought with her relaxation and self-comfort. And she brought “you are immediately going to like me”. I, in contrast, don’t exude relaxation. I, can at times, exude all-wound-up. Tightly-wound- up in fact. But not her, she sauntered to your picnic table and even before she sat the calm trickled across the splintered wood.
I literally can count on two hands the things I know about her, all collected one by one over the 4 nights, barely 8 hours, we have been gathering, but you don’t have to have knowledge to know you have delight. However, I live in this state of awareness, ever since the perpetual waiting rooms of mastectomy, of realizing that people flow into and out of your lives for very specific purposes. God sends, I call them.
Today, hers started to unfold.
“Sally, I read something this week on your social media page…..”
I’d been on social media only once this week so I immediately recalled the post. She was speaking of my reference to my brother’s death.
I don't really know how exactly to explain this. Maybe if you've lost an older sibling it might make sense to you, but there is something strange about approaching, and soon to be passing, your brother in age. Is your older brother suddenly your younger brother? Of course not, but it's a strange phenomenon. I'm soon going to look older than my older brother. He will always look 44 in my mind. Me, the younger sister, well I'm going to surpass him. These are the things I'm thinking about today as tomorrow brings me another year closer. So grateful God continues to remind us of his mercy and grace when life and its turns don't always make sense.
I was also intrigued at the timing of that because she and I had only found each other on FB the day before I made that post.
“I, too, lost my older brother back when I was in college.”
I won’t speak more of that story because her story is not mine to tell, but I will say it was a tragic event and as she spoke, it was as if the 3 feet of table space between us became 2 inches and the moments of the 4 longitudinal days of knowing each other magically morphed into 4 years. Her eyes became deeper, her calm more familiar, her lines…as if I’d known them my whole life.
It’s remarkable, now in I’ve-experienced-it-awareness, how commonality in one singular impacting experience can create time and remove distance.
This is the 4th time this has happened. People that I have known for a long period of time (in this case a short period) where following my brother’s death I have found out that they, too, at some point had tragically lost a brother. And there are countless others that had prematurely lost a brother from natural causes.
Four. We both remarked it was the club you didn’t want to be in, but found comfort in finding other members.
We sat there for the next however many minutes, I completely lost all sense of time, place, and surroundings, discussing my past year and how I was still navigating the ins and outs of tragedy. And she…well she sat and listened.
It’s never been lost on me the purposefulness of God, but after I got home I cocooned myself in the knowledge and grace of His provision. Provision of how God aligns our life with people in circumstance. He strategically placed 4 people (some before Andy’s death, some after) in my path with similar circumstance to swaddle me in the accolades of “you can do this, you are normal, you are not alone” because we did it before you and paved the path. And He strategically places me in the path of others who have walked this same path behind me to help breathe life back into their breathless lungs when they find themselves suddenly unable to inhale. But who in their moment thinks about that? The day Andy died I certainly wasn’t thinking “oh great, now I can help someone else through accidental shootings.” It came to me rather quickly, because of my history with life coming at you fast, but it took some time. But imagine if it did (come to you quickly). I’m getting more in tune with that, this finding myself in the moment realizing that event in the midst of chaos, no matter how tragic and disappointing, that God promises to do grace in and through you if we simply step on board. The key is staying on board before the moment even strikes. Aligning myself with his promises daily so that the promises continue to bleed out of me in the chaos. But most of all remembering that Life isn’t about me, my story is his, and life is all about the people he places in my life.
That’s why on occasion I spill my guts out to you on these very pages, but I can’t tell you how many times I have walked away from this screen unwritten because I didn’t have the uummmpph to tell “that story”. Back in 2012, I promised God, that if he was taking me to mastectomy, then I was going to take that story for his purposes. I tried to carried that through with Andy. And hopefully will continue with that in the whatever comes next. But more so than being public on these pages, it’s more important that I get down into the trenches, one-on-one, in people’s lives with these experiences. Anyone can write a blog post. But how many people will do life with you, even the tragic moments when everything gets rough, and actually do it well? You all have your own story. But what are you doing with your story (I have to ask myself this every day)? And are you allowing God to align you in such a way that you too can say, "It’s remarkable, you won’t believe who I met at the picnic table…"
Be one of those people. I’m so glad she and her story sat down.
You can access previous posts HERE.
You can access previous posts HERE.