A woman from our neighbourhood died. For ten years our families have shared an unremarkable friendship, really. We chatted in the doorway at birthday parties, arranged play dates, and exchanged stories about our kids. There was no drama, no intensity, just warm neighbourliness which, in this day and age, is perhaps an undervalued gift.
All of us dressed up and went to the funeral home for the visitation. Our kids have been through this before and my husband and I spend lots of time in funeral homes, of course. But this time it was different. The room was full of children and teenagers, and there were people we knew from our childrens’ schools, and near the casket there was a very young, very distraught family. There were so many large flower arrangements that they had run out of room on the plant stands and tables. The television played a loop of family pictures showing L. in high school, and with her infant children. She was too young for this, I thought to myself. I am too young for this.
We visited with the dad and kids. We talked with the others who were there. We went home feeling sorry and sad.
I spent the whole weekend looking for signs of hope. But this year in Ontario, those signs were hard to find. With snow well into April, the grass was brown and the forsythia bushes devoid of even green buds, nevermind yellow blooms. In my new yard there aren’t even any snow drops, which for the last ten years have been the first to greet me after the long winter. I looked for hope everywhere I went. I found nothing.
When I found nothing–no encouragement from the earth or sky–I decided that there was only one thing to do. I kept looking. Faith tells me that there is always hope, even when it is buried deep in the earth. So I walked the dog and peered into other people’s gardens. I looked up at the sky and into the barren trees. I looked and looked.
It took a long time, but suddenly there it was, all in one day: There was a warm breeze. We found a few tiny crocus. My youngest and I were out for a walk and he held my hand. The earth had begun to thaw. My shoulders began to relax. All will be well, I said to myself. All will be well. Even if it takes a long time.
I know that L.’s family still grieves, that they still wake up and wish it was all a bad dream. Their schedules at work and school are resuming again, but nothing will be the same. They have to figure out how to live in this new reality that they didn’t plan on and didn’t want.
I know that I can’t turn back time or take away their grief. So I will send a card, make them dinner and set up a play date. That, and take the hope I found this week and share it with them the best I can. Because I know that sometimes it can be really hard to find, even when you’re looking.
Kristine, those things you mentioned doing will mean the world to the family. They are lucky to have you as a friend and neighbour.
Thanks for the encouragement, Nicole. I know exactly what my job is when I am the pastor, but this is really different. I hope that you had great friends and neighbours all those years ago.