These days are warm and golden and mostly idyllic. And then I got to work and Monica asked, "Did you hear about Jesse?"
"Jesse Anderson?" Oh, did he land another big art show? Or the children's book he wrote get noticed by a publisher for the genius that it is?
"Yeah. Um. He's dead."
And she went home and I sat at work, just mostly staring at nothing. Nothing. Nothing really prepares you for the suicide of a friend. I've made peace with deaths and broken relationships and even forgave the guy who raped my close friend. I thought I had a good handle on how to reconcile with suffering and the crazy, vulnerable God who gifts us with Choice... to heal or crush, love and serve or usurp and plunder.
No one to forgive, no one with any answers. Only his absence from a world I can't see beyond.
It's one thing to write about suffering that disturbs you when it's halfway around the world or in the house next door. It's quite another when grief has crashed into your own heart and you need to talk but can't stop crying long enough to make any sense. And what is there to say?
Thank God for a dad who doesn't need you to make sense, that just blurting facts and sobbing helps because now he KNOWS and he's going to carry it with you. Thank God for Carla, who sits on my porch steps with me and prays what I can't formulate: "God, have mercy on your world. Have mercy on us. Have mercy on Jesse." Thank God for friends who call to tell me I'm loved and text late at night when I'm back at work and keep thinking I see Jesse stomping in with his greatcoat flapping behind him, red hair wild, and I keep trying to force my mind around the fact that he's gone. For fun cousins who drive all day to spend a few hours of laughter, sun, water, sand, and the simple treasure of presence. And for friends who listen to Jesse stories and tell me to listen to music that speaks my language and reminds me that hope is not a stranger to lament, but her friend who points to the misty dawn and to flowers rooting in asphalt fissures.
The loss of a good friend and the care of so many others. Because of you all, I see things differently. Better. Like a world cleared and brought into focus with a new pair of glasses when you hadn't realized it had gone a little blurry.
Each person you know is irreplaceable. Each one God's magnum opus. See them for what they are: masterpieces. Marvel at the magnificence of their hands, their laughing eyes, their little kindnesses and all the infuriating and comical idiosyncrasies that comprise their whole.
Cherish and enjoy your people. Tell them. Show them.
Then maybe you won't have years to wonder if the text you thought of sending... then didn't... would have made a difference two days later.