I think often, almost daily, about what people have done for us- the kindness and love that was extended to us from so many people. Even in the first days, which are so hard to even think about right now, I remember feeling warmth and gratitude. What a welcomed feeling. An unimaginable feeling for the time, really. It makes me think of people who may have had to do this without that kind of support and I hurt for them. I can’t imagine it. These people, some close friends, some barely acquaintances may have no idea the impact their gestures had on us, but they opened and continue to open, a tiny window that lets a sliver of light in for us at a time when we are in such darkness we can hardly see ourselves.
Then I was thinking one day about our life- this new un-welcomed life, our broken hearts, our broken spirits and what I saw was an enormous, violent shattering of glass. Piercing to the ears with huge shards and chunks of glass shattered everywhere, the rough, dangerous edges almost daring someone to touch them. But that image didn’t sit right with me. Shattered glass can injure, but we could hardly move let alone injure or harm. Shattered glass is hard, cold and irreparable. That just didn’t represent what the “pieces” of our life felt like. Our broken pieces, even now, feel more like the wispy seeds that float off of a ripe dandelion in the wind. Not hard and cutting, but soft, vulnerable and untethered. Ready to be swept up and away by a mere breeze. I can see them floating off, but I don’t have the strength to chase after them. I’m too tired, I don’t care enough. The thin, hollow stem of the flower with a few possibilities of potential life precariously hanging on. Empty and weak, waiting, even wanting to wilt and die. That is what this feels like.
In one scenario, those floating pieces of life can be carried off in the wind or worse, left to wither and die. In another, however, they are snatched out of the air and gathered up off the ground, held and protected from what could be. Safe but not caged. Saved by dozens of gently cupped hands, holding them, waiting…
Those hands, the people who have helped save us, who continue to hold pieces of us safe until we are ready to have them back. Friends, family, neighbors. Some like brothers and sisters, some we may have never met. The love, sacrifices and acts of kindness they showed by leaving their lives and loved ones to come to us literally has and continues to hold us together. Some dropping everything to hop into a car and drive 17 hours just to hug us, even though we hadn’t seen each other for years. That level of love. The friend who left her kids with neighbors for days just to sleep on the couch across from me and walk beside me while I cried and screamed and shook with the shock of it-just to be with me, and I was not a pretty place to be. The ones who ran around crazy making sure every need was thought of and tended to, protecting us from the cruelty of the outside world and unwanted attentions. The ones who dedicated several weekends away from their family and life to fly 1,000 miles or drove hours over and over just be beside us and hold us up. The friends who sacrificed their vacation time, to never leave our side for the first days, sleeping in easy chairs, so if we or our boys needed them in the night, they were there. That level of love. The friends who worked so hard to help make our house a home again. The ones who still text and reach out for walks or paddle boarding or with a loving word or scripture. The nameless, faceless ones who are still praying for us. Yes, in the midst of the unimaginable, I am grateful.
If our lives are this huge, fragile dandelion that has exploded in the wind, each of those people- every sacrifice, every moment, every said word, every silent prayer, has safely gathered up a fragile seed and kept it from being lost to the wind. They are keeping pieces of us from dying and never coming back. They are protecting those pieces of our lives and holding them for us when we can’t. Even our own children who we are, sometimes, too broken to help.
Our lives could’ve so easily shattered, pieces lost forever. But they weren’t because of the sacrifices of love, time, texts, invitations, encouraging words and prayers people gave to us. Those, as I see them, are the hands and feet of God in the form of His people doing what they are called to do. All because they loved us or felt for us.
What a beautiful realization in such an un-beautiful time.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life