When my dad was in the hospital the last time, I knew it was a matter of days. The year had been hard, in and out of hospitals, procedures, ICU, long drives, short nights, an ocean of tears. Now, the battle was coming to an end, and despite the effort to prepare emotionally and mentally, one never knows what to do when the time finally arrives.
My friend Diana did one of the most unorthodox--and so desperately needed--things I can imagine. She took me out for a day, not a day of processing or preparing for the inevitable, but a day of coffee, chocolate, lunch, a glass of wine, shopping, and laughter. Oh!, the laughter! We reminisced, not about my dad, but about college, boy friends--especially the one we shared :-) --friends...did I mention the laughter?
I went home after my day with Di and slept...hard...peacefully...comforted.
A week later Diana stood with me as they wheeled my dad's casket from the church to the hearse. She squeezed my hand, hugged my neck, and let me go. It was all she could do. Some paths can only be walked alone...but what you have when you step onto them can determine how well you walk through them. Di had given me all she could, and it was all my heart needed.
Again I am on a path that really can only be walked alone. Grief, hope, and healing are witnessed from the outside but can only be lived within. While others can hug my neck and hold my hand, ultimately, they have to let go and let me walk through stumbling at times, head held high at others, and anywhere in between at any given moment.
But their hearts are with me...and this is the comfort.
It is rarely what is said. In fact, it is more often what isn't. It is more what they do and the tender grace with which they do it.
It is the acceptance of the path, the willingness to witness it, the pain and pleasure of watching me stumble and stand up again I see in their eyes.
It is their willingness to laugh with me at the most seemingly inappropriate places knowing the laughter hedges the pain that would drown me.
It is their quiet grace as they watch me bravely stagger from a joyous occasion because the grief is too heavy and too deep to hide behind a smile.
It is their knowing when a detour is necessary to give strength and not just diversion.
It is the discipline to stand back when they want to rush in with a hug or advice, and it is the deep breath they take and the silenced tongue when I walk in a way they would not and the tender way they pick gravel from my knees without making me feel ashamed or like less when their way was right and mine was wrong.
It is not yelling back when I am yelling at them...and when it isn't at them all but I'm still yelling.
It is the simple texts, "I love you. I believe in you. I am still expecting great things for you." The cards in the mail with elephant seal hugs, butterflies in the becoming, and sunshine on my face.
Sometimes it is the phone calls, and sometimes it is knowing not to call right now.
It's more than being willing to listen. It's being willing to sit in the silence...when tears burn hot...breath comes shaky...and all there is to do is hand over another kleenex.
It is the heart that holds on while letting go, stands fast while stepping away, and answers calls spoken and unspoken. This is the comfort that I take with me on this path...the comfort that while I am walking alone...I'm really not...I'm taking loving hearts with me.