Thursday, January 1, 2015

Shared Experiences

How fun, how thrilling, what joy there is in watching the total delight of a child on Christmas morning. The sounds of giggling, laughter, shouts of “Come on! Hurry!” as siblings almost jump out of their skin and clamor all over each other with excitement. Witnessing their little arms spread as wide as they can possibly stretch, then watching as their tiny hands fly upward to cover their mouths, not believing their eyes when discovering what Santa has laid out for them.

It doesn’t matter if it is the memory of your own children at a young age, or watching your grandchildren just last week, the experience of the magic of Christmas is forever embedded in our hearts and minds. It is this shared experience, that takes you back to your own childhood and enables you to recall the wonder of it all.

Oh, there are so many fun, exciting experiences that we all have shared...with a spouse, with a friend, with a parent or a family member. It’s these moments where we are able to replay the beauty of a night sky, the gift of an amazing trip, or the wonder of the birth of a child. It is in reliving these priceless moments, and in sharing them with those we love, that takes us back and brings the joy of the past into the present.

I received a call a few days ago. The news on the other end of the phone caused the blood in my veins to stop flowing. The words that hung with such heaviness in the air concerned some of my dearest friends. Debbie and Sam have been good friends for almost forty years. We raised our children together in Midland. We have laughed and cried together during those years. We have traveled together. We have been separated by miles, but our friendship has remained steadfast. The news concerned Sam. He had suffered a massive heart attack and was in the hospital in Austin. His recovery was uncertain. He was in grave condition. 

Oh no, please Lord, no. My immediate prayers were for Sam’s well being, but quickly gravitated to Debbie and their children. Shared experiences are not always full of joy and delight. There are some paths in life we would like to bulldoze, to road block, to post “Do Not Enter” warning signs, ensuring that those we love and care about might steer clear of this hazardous path. Oh how I wanted to take this pain away from sweet Debbie and their children.  Oh how I wanted to fast forward time and know that I might save them from the upcoming days, weeks, months, even years of the ache that grief causes. I knew full well that if Sam didn’t survive this precipice, the overwhelming sorrow and heartache would be sure to follow. 

I didn’t want to share the experience of saying good-bye to a husband with Debbie. I don’t want to share this experience of mine with anyone I love ever again, but there I found myself walking into that sterile Austin ICU waiting room the following day. There sat Debbie and her children in that horrible zombie-like state, pain and anguish were etched into each face. I knew this feeling much too well, and my heart broke. As I hugged each of them, there were no words, simply deep soft moans, sighs of sadness and groans of disbelief. They were to take part in a waiting game. Time was now needed to completely understand the severity of Sam’s condition and all anyone could do was watch the hands of that ICU clock inch forward at a snail’s pace.

Debbie had told me several years ago, when Steve was so sick, that in moments when there are no words to offer, when there is really nothing that anyone can do, that this is when a true friend steps up, and simply shines your shoes for you. Debbie shined many a shoe for me and now it was time for me to share this experience with my sweet, precious friend and sit by her side and quietly shine her shoes.

We all have experiences that are life changing, some indescribably wonderful, some indefinably weighted with deep sadness. I am realizing more and more that a true friendship means being there for one another. It means sharing all of life’s experiences, the good and the devastating. This is what makes a life worthy of living. 

What would I have done if I hadn’t had my friends who had already experienced the death of a spouse?  What if they had they not come and stood by my side, held me while I cried, cared for me when I was too numb to care for myself and shared the devastation of their experience with me? What if they had not hurt right along side of me? Oh, my journey would have been insurmountable. I am forever grateful that these friends chose to share their experiences with me, and, because of this, we are and always willl be bound together by a tie that is too strong to ever be broken.

 I am thankful we just celebrated the shared experience of Christmas, a reminder of Emmanuel's birth, Emmanuel, "God with us." God sent Christ so that he could have shared experiences with us, so that he could dwell among us and then die for us. What better example, of sharing the experience of human life. What a sacrifice.

So, I will share my experience with Debbie, I will shine her shoes and I will walk by her side and I will pray unceasingly for her because this is what makes life meaningful. If I didn’t pay this forward, with all I had to give, I could never find the good that lies beneath the depth of my sadness.

Sam left this world, New Years Day, January 1, 2015. He will be greatly missed, but never forgotten and always loved.

For what it’s worth,

Please keep this family in your prayers.

Psalm 56:8 “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

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