Yesterday was Bethany’s wake; today will be her funeral. For me, the wake was a flurry of hugs and tears; I had an evening meeting to attend and wanted to see as many of my Poland daughters as possible, along with Bethany’s family, before I left.
It was hard to feel the heartache of people you care for in your arms and chest as you hold each other in sorrow. I wished aloud more than once that I could say something to ease the pain of her passing (I believe that, in the moment, the words were actually “to make this suck less”)—but I don’t know why this happened, and I miss her, too.
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Imagine the thing that matters most to you in all the world—beautiful, precious, perfect in your eyes. Imagine that you crafted this thing yourself, putting all of your attention, skill, and loving care into every detail. Imagine holding it in your hands, gazing at it in joy and wonder, and seeing how good it is.
Now imagine a dear friend needed that very thing, if only for a while. Would you lend it to them for a time? Could you trust them to care for it as you do?
And after a time—weeks, months, or years—imagine you needed it back. Who could begrudge you? It is yours, after all, the work of your hands, precious in your sight.
Now imagine someone who knows you so deeply, so completely, in every way: the color of your eyes, the angle of your smile, your hopes and fears, gifts and flaws. Imagine someone who loves you perfectly, in precisely the way that resonates best with your soul.
Imagine you know that person exists out there, but you’ve never met him. You’ve spent your life, however long, with friends and family who care for you and do their best to understand and love you the way you need to be loved. But you and they both know that it’s only a matter of time: that he’s out there, seeking you, and one day he will come.
It would be a hard day of tears and farewells, but also hope of a bright future. On that day, who can begrudge you going with Him?
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I couldn’t stay for the prayer service last night, which I understand was powerful and healing. I don’t pretend to offer anything more, better, or different. I write, in this case, because it helps me, and share in case it helps someone else.
I have great hope for Bethany and for us, because I trust this great God of ours. He is the giver of all good things—of only good things. He has crafted us with utmost care, He loves us without fail, and He calls each of us from love, to love, in His own time. He wants souls. He wants saints. And He knows best how to shape them.
How do I know this? “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:49). I have felt His guiding hand and seen His loving care in my life. And He has told us, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you…plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
If we wonder what sort of bright future could possibly involve the loss of a loved one like this, perhaps we have not yet imagined what awaits us—with them—in eternity.
This is what I couldn’t say last night, in the midst of hugs and tears. Does it make this “suck less”? God willing, a little.
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Yesterday was also the feast of my Confirmation saint, Francis de Sales. He is known for his gentleness and wisdom, and each year I am struck more fully by how providential it was that I chose him as my patron and guide. It seems that nearly every thing he said or taught speaks to my heart.
Last night a dear friend shared with me this prayer of his. I offer it today.
Do not look forward to the trials and crosses of this life with dread and fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that as they arise, God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them. He has guided and guarded you thus far in life. Do you but hold fast to his dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all trials.
Whenever you cannot stand, he will carry you lovingly in his arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who cares for you today will take good care of you tomorrow and every day of your life. Either he will shield you from suffering or he will give you the unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace then and put aside all useless thoughts, vain dreads, and anxious imaginations.
Amen. God bless and love you.