Everyone in a while when I write, I have some sort of personal breakthrough. I don't think I am particularly wise or anything; but I do think when I have these bright, spotlight moments that I should hare them because maybe someone can relate. Or moreover, maybe someone will tell me I am wrong and a lunatic.
Either way, sharing breakthroughs can be a growth experience! On Sunday, I wrote about my endless prayer requests and this idea that we are all intercessors for the suffering. I truly, deeply believe that we are meant to suffer together, in order to emerge in joy.
I do struggle, often, with actually being able to witness suffering. We all do--right? Sometimes heartbreaking, devastating things are simply too hard to fathom or to see or to carry with us. It seems easier to tuck them away. But, it is so much work hiding all those bad things in the junk drawers of our minds. We also risk becoming disconnected from the people around us--people we love and people we are called to love.
For me, there are days when I don't have it in me to read or write one more childhood cancer story. It is such a gift to able to connect with other childhood cancer families in a meaningful way. It is the biggest gift to be able to write their stories. But, it is hard, you know? There is so much pain--my own and theirs--and so much unfairness. Sometimes, I need an escape so I can come back and be clear headed.
I remember 7 years ago when my beloved friend's daughter, Campbell, died from ependymoma. I had to shut down for a while. I simply could not face the continued suffering around me; but I could sit with Robin and her suffering. I guess I am not trying to suggest that we take on and watch all the suffering; but that we discern the times when we can talk with someone and do our best to be there.
In that time, when I stopped paying attention to other childhood cancer stories, I used to pray that someone else would care. And I know that they did. I know that all of us have a place in this suffering together. My time with Robin was not excessive and I honestly don't know how much I helped, but I do know this, I emerged in a joyous friendship with a woman I will adore my entire life. She will forever be brokenhearted; but there is great joy in the life she lives.
And I get to witness that, as her friend.
Walking with others in their sorrow, is the deepest gift. We don't walk with them for attention or acknowledgment or parades, I want to make that clear. We walk with them because we love them.
And as my father used to say, "That's just what you do for your family and those you love."
Another friend today texted me and asked me if I ever studied Ecclesiastes. I laughed, because the idea of me studying any chapter in the Bible is hilarious. I mean I love God and Jesus and the Bible-y book; but I am so far from a studious Christian. Anyway, I cracked it open tonight and found several verses that spoke to me--some even made me laugh at how they applied to my life. Then, I stumbled upon Ecclesiastes Chapter 7, entitled a "A Disillusioned View of Life." Verse 3 just about leveled me:
"Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad."
and then, verse 4:
"The heart of the wise in in the house of the mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
Friends, we need each other. We need each other more than ever. We have to walk with one another in sorrow. We have to be in that sorrowful place together and bring each other joy and laughter and friendship. We need to lean into showing up and wiping tears and telling bad jokes and sharing inappropriate memes and telling one another how much we love each other.
Only then will we emerge in joy.