Sunday, April 10, 2016
It was grief that caused my path to cross with Amy's for the first time last year and this past week grief once again became a most unwelcome intruder. It still doesn't seem possible that she is gone. I look at her smiling face in photos and part of me expects her to message me again or post on Facebook about the latest project she completed. It can't be real that someone so young and vibrant, so generous and kind has just died so suddenly. But real it is as her family and friends said goodbyes to her yesterday out in Missouri and those of us who are farther away mourn her in small gatherings and group messages to each other.
When I got word of Amy's death I was in line at a Starbucks in Chicago, part of the way through a weekend conference I was attending for work. I had a flashback to the moment I received the news about my G-Mom's death just about a month before. A message on my phone. Staring like it could not possibly be true. And then just saying....no no no no no no no.
I got the news of my G-Mom's death while in the back stairwell of my office. Two co-workers heard my crying, came beside me, and helped me to a chair in a nearby conference room. They got me something to drink and one of them drove me home. That week a friend from church cooked a ready to eat meal and left it for me so I would have something to share with friends and family in the midst of my grief. To me, these moments were love in action. In my mind, they are also the most genuine moments of life because they are when we actually see each other. Too often we look right past each other as we go about our daily business, but in the throes of grief it is impossible to ignore the humanity of other humans. And there is something special about that.
Just as at the office when I first heard my G-Mom died, there were simple gestures of care that happened in that Starbucks immediately after I found out about Amy's death which still fill my heart with gratitude and give me hope. My friend helped me to a chair and bought me a water. A stranger sitting nearby dug a pack of tissues out of her purse and gave them all to me. Friends far away exchanged messages with me for the remainder of the day sharing sadness, thoughts, and memories. These things are love in action.
In the last exchange I had with Amy, I thanked her for coming to the viewing for my G-Mom and let her know how much it meant to me to be on the receiving end of her hugs and sympathy. There is just something about those who show up for you when you are grieving that connects on the deepest level and never lets go. And how much more so for those who do it when it means battling through their own grief and pain to be present. Those hugs contain a special richness. In her message to me, she expressed that she was happy to do it and how meaningful it was to her when her own friends went to great lengths to be there with her during the services for her dad. This exchange has stuck with me throughout this week and has made me think about all of the ways big and small that the people in my life show up for me and that I try my best to show up for others. These moments are what truly matter and what will exist for long after we do.
In the short time I knew Amy it was clear to me that she lived in a way that both embraced the beauty of the world around her and spread light to those she came in contact with - whether it was through her smile and warm hugs or selfless actions. When someone did something kind for her or her loved ones, she didn't let it end there. She passed it along. What an impact we can have when we show up for others, no matter who they are to us. I'm sure Amy's friends didn't know they were starting a chain reaction of care by showing up for her when her dad died, but that is what they did. When we do these things for each other we are creating the world that we want and stretching the definition of community. It has certainly made me think about and act on these moments with more purpose - something I'm sure that Amy would agree with wholeheartedly.