It occurs to me today that most of the people I talk to on at least a semi-regular basis, were not people I even knew before you died. Of course, the friends I had before are still there, as is my family. But these are some of my new friends Dan, and I’d like to introduce you to them.
First, there are a few moms at Audrey’s school I talk to regularly about stuff. They call or email if we’re not there and one offers to come over with a bottle of wine any time. I am thankful for their presence in my life.
Another group are actually people I didn’t know, but you did: your friends. We pretty much had our own friends- couple friends were rarer because we already had very lasting friendships with people when we met. I haven’t talked to your friends consistently but when I do, they are always helpful. I chat with one online the other day about whether I should bid on the house or not. After we go over all of the logistics, he tells me to go for it. I trust him and I know you would too- that helps. There’s another friend of yours who doesn’t even live on this continent but has consistently been there as a source of encouragement and just “I can’t believe this is real either,” email conversations- as well as keeping me abreast on your favorite soccer (football) team and how they’re fairing this year. Another one of your friends chats with me for a long time one night sharing a little bit about his own difficult childhood and how he told himself he would overcome and be even better than kids with normal circumstances and he did. I’ve kept this thought in the forefront of my mind for a few weeks now. Another one of your friends was responsible for this blog getting onto the NY Times- and for my getting an hour and a half of one on one time with Tim Keller. I’m sure it’s not been easy for any of them to reach out to me since I wasn’t close to any of them before you died. But they’ve done well, and I feel you’d be proud of them and grateful…I sense the loyalty and strength of your friendships.
There is the friend I’ve mentioned before- the woman who is part of a couple we knew at our old church in Brooklyn; you were friendly with her husband. I really don’t believe I’d ever spoken to her, but she continues to write me almost daily, read my blog, and knows my daily/weekly schedule which is a comfort in itself.
The day that I bid on the house, I found that the first person I was texting about it was a young woman whom I’ve never met. This young woman found my blog and contacted me to tell me how much it meant to her and how it helped her understand her own mother- who was also widowed when she was a baby. We kept in touch and one night while I was craving adult conversation, she happened to message me and ask if I wanted to talk. We spoke on the phone about her own upbringing- her mother’s arranged marriage- their move to South Africa and purchase of a home. I can still hear in her exact voice- “And we were very happy.” I believe this phone conversation was the very beginning of my being able to envision a future for us. She also shared with me the prayers she and her mother pray each morning before they go to their separate jobs and the prayer they pray at night. She texts me all the time- sometimes when I am right in the middle of crying in a parking lot and tells me she is so sorry I’m alone there crying. And so, she was the first person I felt like texting this news to. She tells me I’ll find the perfect house and that she and her mother pray for us daily.
There are the other young widows. One I was matched up with through a site, another who found me on the blog. They are the most nourishing correspondences I’ve had in many ways. They know the pain…they are also trying their best. They encourage me and help me feel less isolated. There is also the one whose late husband was your Bible study leader in college…who knew you. We chat online late at night and she always helps me sort things out. I had spoken with her on the phone right after you died- even though I’d never met her…and I will never forget seeing her before me in the receiving line smiling and embracing me and just knowing it was her. I won’t forget asking her if she would sit with me at the funeral when she came down from Boston and her telling me she was there to help me any way she could. I like to imagine you and her husband are together- it helps.
Then there is the dear friend who drove me to the cemetery today- really the first person to ever volunteer this to me since you died…happily. You met her at our current church but we barely knew her or her family when you died. I had asked her some questions about the stroller she used (we have children the same age but hers is the third child), and then we had one really nice conversation over play dough or arts and crafts while the kids were in sunday school one week- you were in church- I think it was your last time. I remember thinking and probably telling you, “I think I could be friends with her- she’s so nice and easy to talk to.” And then after you died, there she appeared…chatting with me daily online, coming over to take Audrey out on walks with her own son, limping while pulling them around in a cart even though she has a very bad ankle. She is the one who brought me her favorite steamer to try out in the kitchen. She also watched Audrey the night of your benefit concert…sitting in my bedroom, telling me I looked pretty right before I left.
At first, I remember feeling cautious. You called everyone your friend pretty quickly- I was and am much more slow to use the term. “You mean, acquaintance?” I’d often say to you. I wondered why this woman I didn’t really know was taking such an interest. Many widows can tell you there is a certain strange breed of person who is drawn to tragedy for some reason and I was afraid she might be one of those…but she has proven otherwise. After I bought an antique armoire that was delivered broken- she pretended to be me and harassed the store owner, calling them over and over again about the issue because I just could not handle it. She volunteered to come with me for my MRI and told the technician to be nicer to me after I flipped out inside there. She watched me lay there crying unable to try again, helped me schedule another appointment and took me to lunch at a cafe afterwards. She loves our daughter, and most importantly, she is probably the only person who ever calls me on the phone to check in on me.
So she was the one with us on this cold, windy day. It was nice to have company and not have to make that drive myself with Audrey, and it was nice to have a witness to the pain this visit always brings. She brought me coffee. I saw her crying and trying to hold it together while Audrey and I laid out four bouquets of flowers…while Audrey drank her hot chocolate kneeling in front of your headstone, smiling. And without being asked, she grabbed my phone and took this photo while we sang a hymn:
“Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on/ When we shall be forever with the Lord,/ When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,/ Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored./ Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,/ All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.”
I am laughing and bawling my eyes out all at the same time. You make me sound way too nice, but all I can think is how much you have truly blessed me. I felt honored yesterday. Honored. I couldn't get over the view…breathtaking. thank you, Julia. I love you and Audrey so much.
I am so happy for you that not only do you have such a wonderful support network, but you are also able to acknowledge it and feel grateful. You have a beautiful spirit.
The time stamp on these comments is a tribute to how many people love and support you. People you've met and strangers you haven't. We wake up and log-in. We read your story, cry with you, laugh with you and root for you. We may be silent cheerleaders, but we're all here for you.
Wishing you a blessed and peaceful day.