December 27, 2010
It was two years ago today, that my friend was diagnosed with a significant brain tumor in her left frontal lobe. I remember exactly where I was when I received the call. I can recall vividly having to sit down in the middle of Barnes and Nobles because I was in shock and stunned to the deep parts of myself. It was as if someone had knocked the wind out of me, and I was struggling desperately to catch my breath and regain control. As if I had control in the first place.
Last week, I received an email from her husband telling me that she wanted some Christmas music. She was now home from the hospital recovering from pneumonia and some complications from the swelling of the tumor. After her diagnosis, I made her lots of music to try and convey my thoughts from a far since they had stayed in their home town with family trying to regain their footing after such a revelation.
Music has always had an uncanny knack of reaching into those undisclosed places in a unique way. And I was at a complete loss of my own words, but had no shortage of fears, feelings, and desires for her to know that I was with her as much as possible. Even if I was afraid, which I was. And am.
So, the day before Christmas eve, I quietly knocked on the front door of their home bearing gifts. My friend’s husband let me in and led me to their room. The house was very quiet since the kids had been taken on an outing with their grandparents.
She was in bed resting, so I had to approach her from behind. I was very nervous. Would she recognize me? Would she be too tired to see me, and therefore aggravated by my intrusion? And what do you say in the face of so much suffering and sickness?
I leaned around the side of the bed, and smiled. She looked up at me, and grinned. We hugged and kissed each other on the cheek. Then she pulled me close to her and said, “Kiss me on the other side as well, I’m now greeting like the Europeans.”
I obliged happily, and laughed at her ability to remain so unique. I gave her the CD’s and unwrapped a framed picture for her that I took this summer of a butterfly in all it’s glory. I said her name, held up the image and said, “This is you. And will always be you to me.”
We spent some time laughing and talking. I tended to her needs very thankful for the moments I had spent with others who were sick. I tried to follow her thoughts even when I did not understand. It was in the midst of our time together that I realized, I was no longer afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. It was just good for me to be present with her and to meet her where she was. Acknowledging and being so sorry that she felt bad. And laughing with her because she is funny.
It was just like the text I had received from my friend Michelle whom I had asked to pray for my time. She wrote to me, “The ministry of presence is so huge. There is something it does for the soul that the Lord meant for us to give to one another.”
When I could tell that my friend was getting tired, I ran my fingers through her soft hair. I told her that I loved her and was going to let her get some rest. She nodded her head and we hugged once more. I went on my way as quietly as I had entered.
Though I was not the same, for the word Emmanuel was upon my lips in a new, fresh way. I thought again of Michelle’s words and the ministry of presence that one simple word communicates. Emmanuel. God with Us. With Me. In my sickness. In my sadness. In my lost places. In my loneliness.
In my joy. And in my glory. Always. And Forever.