I spent some time this weekend with a friend. She is deep in mourning, and her home is filled with all the remnants of charity. Cookies, candies, and cards litter the rooms.The air is still heavy with sadness. She looks exhausted, although she has slept most of the day. She shuffles her feet through misty random thoughts that are attached to anger and disappointment. I have been in that place, so I can recognize her body language and understand why she thinks she is losing her mind. She is now among women who have had to bury one of their children. This we now share, and I wish we didn’t have this in common. I went to sit with her. I wanted her to see it was possible to walk with grief without it squeezing you from the inside out. I told her there will be a day when she will wake up, and it will not be the first thing she thinks about. She couldn’t believe that, and I understand why. How does a mother bury her child and keep going? How do you prove that time has stopped when you see the second hand defiantly moving and experience one day turn into the next? I don’t have the answers.
          It has been a challenge for me to understand that illnesses can seemingly come out of nowhere and that healthy people that you love can die. It is hard for people to measure how long it will take to accept that  life as they knew it has ended. I am still working to accept loss. Last month, when it was time to say goodbye to my father, I wasn’t ready. People asked how old he was and if he was sick.  They wanted to help make sense of it. “Was it sudden?”  They asked. “No,” I said, but it didn’t matter.  You can never be ready to say goodbye, no  matter how prepared you or others think you should be. In ten years, I have said goodbye to a four-year-old daughter, a student who sat in the front row of my sixth grade class, three uncles,  two sets of granparents, a cousin, a friend, my father, and  a cat I tried not to love. Now, I am fearful that I may have to say goodbye to one of my oldest and dearest friends. Yes, she is sick and her death from this illness seems eminent, but I can’t accept the idea of saying goodbye to this forty-one-year-old woman. I am  numb from goodbyes, and I wish I could call a “time out”, but all of it is out of my control. So, it is a challenge to comfort this friend when I still feel raw with grief  of my  own. It is also a challenge not to tell her the truth: You will recover, but there will be other things you will have to get through, overcome, manage, and hold up under. Ready or not, those things will come.
        Things happen that are outside our control and we are forced to deal with it. In her book, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Rhonda Janzen writes about all the challenges she had to overcome after her husband decides he no longer loves her and leaves. She writes, “What I want to measure, what I can control, is my response to life’s challenges. ”   These words suit my present position. I cannot control what happens to those I love or spare them pain or sorrow.  I cannot measure how long it will take for someone to move past his or her grief. I can only measure myself against what I have overcome.  I’m still standing, living, working, and laughing even without the understanding of how and why things happen the way they do. I hope this gives my dear friend some hope.