She wept. She talked and wept as we sat there.
Later, after our visit, as my eight-year-old and I drive down the graveled driveway, my daughter looks up at me with those pensive brown eyes and say, “Momma, we should’ve have left a half hour ago.”
“It was a lot of sitting. Was it too much for you?” On the now curvy road, I drive slowly to keep from causing my girl car sickness.
“No, that’s not why. We should have left because then she wouldn’t have cried.”
And this is a moment I hope my girl never forgets. Between her sad eyes and my understanding ones, so much is said. I know she’s referring to the few minutes in which our friend openly ached.
Openly is the key. I don’t think people who bury their children ever stop aching. It isn’t something they “get over” or “move on” from. The burning need to cradle her child is constant, but for so many reasons, she works hard to shield us from the rawness of her pain.
Is it because she wants to protect us? Is it because society says it’s been over a year and she should be okay? Or is it because if one solitary tear escapes, she’s afraid she’ll lose control of her sorrow, fears or bitterness? Does it hurt too much to talk about, or does it hurt too much not to talk about?
Our windows are down. The warm summer-like air kisses our faces as I decide to tell Izzi something I pray sticks.
“No, we shouldn’t have left sooner. Maybe it would have been easier for us, but she needed to cry, Izzi.”
Multiple times we’ve discussed that tears are not a sign of weakness. When momma is crying, usually that’s when she’s fighting the hardest. So I reaffirm this philosophy. Tears are okay. Tears are natural, even healthy. Tears are real.
“The mark of a real friendship is being able to sit in the quiet with someone as they cry. Not trying to rush her. Not even trying to cheer her up. But sitting with her in the awkward silence when words can no longer explain and tears are the only outlet we have. Holding her hand and simply letting her cry because even though it makes us uncomfortable and sad and feeling helpless, that space is exactly what she needs in that moment. That, my girl, is friendship.
Give it even when you don’t receive it. Give people space but don’t leave them. Sit in the awkward silence. Feel their ache. Don’t try to fix it.
That, my girl, is friendship.
It’s not often 50/50. Maybe in the beginning, but eventually there will be times when you give 80% and only get back 20%. Stay. Love. Hold her hand. Someday the world will turn upside down again and you may be the receiver.
That, my girl, is friendship.
But don’t just do it because you might get something back someday. Do it because you love her. Do it because, even if you never get your due, you are receiving something even bigger. When you give space, even in the dark, hot quiet, you are blessed. I don’t know how to explain this. I don’t understand how it works, but it does. Giving, serving and nurturing blesses me even more than it does those I’m giving to, serving or nurturing. When I give 80% of myself physically, I somehow get back 80% spiritually. My hurts become open and exposed, and this is one way God gets in.
This, my girl, is friendship.
Leaving early should never be an option. Stay. Trust.
Be with her in her tears, when laughter never again feels possible.
Be with her in her laughter, when it shocks her that she can laugh again.
Be with her in the mundane, everyday moments, when she’s in awe that the world continues to turn, bills must be paid, and laundry still needs folded even after her daughter is gone.
Be with her, my girl. This is friendship.