” I must cry,” said Anne. “My heart is broken. The stars in their courses fight against me, Marilla. Diana and I are parted forever. Oh, Marilla, I little dreamed of this when we first swore our vows of friendship.” ~ Anne of Green Gables.
Anne and Diana were not forever parted- Anne had accidentally served Diana a strong wine and gotten her quite drunk. Diana’s mother made it clear that Anne and Diana were not to see each other again. But time passed on and Anne and Diana were reunited. My Diana and I will reunite again someday- but not on this side of heaven.
This is not my first loss. I have attended my fair share of funerals over the years and though I hated to see them die I knew that they had had a good long run and lived a full life. For some death was merciful. But I have seen death wield it’s sword unfairly before- and there is no explanation. I do not think the dead ask why. That is a question that haunts the living. The dead do not wrestle to accept their passing- that is the struggle of the living. The dead do not mourn- we do.
I can’t do this.
That is the sentence that keeps filling my mind. I can’t do this- yet every experience in my life that I approach with ‘I can’t do this’ I find that I can because I must. However there is a space in the cycle between ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I must do this’. That space may be but the span of a calming breath to focus the mind before leaping into the fray before me. In times of loss it is the space reserved for grieving. In those times that space becomes a refuge allowing us to freely visit the past and recall fondly the memories that made us who we are today. It is in that space we mourn our present loss. The future stands respectfully at the border- waiting for us to declare I must therefore I will.
For all of Anne’s dramatic flair (of which I am certain I have no share) her statement is one of child like innocence. “I must cry. My heart is broken.” I for one hate crying. It is not so much that I dislike tears- it’s the snot. Tears are the muses of the poets. But snot is just snot- that yucky ugly physical representation of what is making us cry. Even country singers don’t sing about snot. But crying is good for us. At least that is what my roommate tells me- that it is the body’s way of processing the grief of the mind and heart. I can’t argue with that. I know grief is good and I know that there are some things I must do that call me to traverse the space between ‘I can’t’ and ‘I must’ quickly. But I also know that there are some spaces between ‘I can’t’ and ‘I must’ that I need to take my time to get through. The length and the manner in which I use that space is dependent on what it is I need to heal. There is no pressure to leave- though the future hovers patiently just beyond.
But here is the kicker. What makes that space so important is that it is the time when we choose to say ‘I must and I will’ or ‘I can’t and I won’t’. The minute we choose ‘I won’t’ that space becomes a prison and that statement a thief. It steals the joys from our memories and turns healthy grief into a death all its own. Most importantly it robs us of our future. Those who are in Christ know that the ones we have lost are our future. One day I will be reunited with my grandfather, my great-grand parents, my uncle, my dear friend, and many others. And when I do I want to them to be proud of the life I lived in their absence. I want to rejoice with my friend in heaven those things I will not on earth. I want to hear her laugh at my antics on earth she observed from heaven. I want the life I present to her to be full and complete because that is what she always wanted when she was by my side.
Sheree was the Diana Barry to my Anne Shirley. I must confess that I do have a complete share (times 10) of Anne’s dramatic flair and imagination- but that never made Sheree shy away. For all my wild imagination and dramatic whims she was laughing by my side. I didn’t know what a kindred spirit was until she sat next to me in middle-school choir. And then she and her family were attending my church- suddenly our fates were tied in everything. For all that I was big she was small. For all that I was loud she was quiet. For all my wild dreams hers were simple and profound. We were opposites in so many ways- but we were without a doubt kindred spirits. When I left home for my adventures she was always there when I returned. No matter how long it had been since we had last spoken we would instantly be skipping down our own version of Birch Path laughing and just enjoying ourselves.
As I grew older Sheree became a bridge from my past to my present. When I left home it is no secret I did not look back. Many things we shared in the early years of our friendship had become my past- but not Sheree. She was always my present. And for that I am grateful beyond words. For Sheree knew me. All of me- the good, the bad, the ugly, the scary, the scared, the broken. She knew it all from the beginning and she believed in me. She believed in me. It had nothing to do with where I went or what I did. It had nothing to do with my talents, life-choices, or chosen paths. It had nothing to do with similar dreams or passions. It was me. Sheree was Sheree and I was me. We loved each other for that reason alone. I cannot tell you how much I will miss that. I cannot tell you how much of my heart is missing in her absence.
The morning she died I was in worship at my own church when I was overwhelmed by a sick feeling that something was terribly wrong. It felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me and I had to sit down. I began to pray in the Spirit because something was causing me to panic that I could not understand. I kept looking around expecting the sky to fall. Apparently it had- just not where I was. I found out later that that incident coincided with Sheree’s passing. It may seem odd- but I think my spirit was mourning a loss I had yet to know. That if nothing else is a testament to how closely we were tied. My soul was rent when she left this earth.
Many sing the praises of my lost friend rejoicing in her life and her passage into heaven- but I can’t seem to get past the loss. And that is the greatest praise I can sing of her; that her death was the death of a part of me. In this life there are few who have the privilege of such a friend- I had Sheree. (And I am infinitely grateful for those key friendships that remain.) Thankfully, I don’t have to get past the loss right now. This is a space between ‘I can’t’ and ‘I must’ that will take time to traverse. I will cry while my heart is broken- but I will not dwell in broken heartedness. Though the future filled with all the things my friend wanted for me waits at the border of this space- I will not rush to it till I am ready. It was God who gave me the gift of Sheree and her friendship. I have been through too much in this life to say that God is not in everything- even the tragedies though we cannot recognize His hand at this present time. For this reason and many others I know God will dwell with me in my time of mourning. And when the time is right it is God who will take me into the future boldly to claim what it is I am left on this earth to accomplish