I’m about to whip up pumpkin pancakes for dinner when I get the news. A dear friend’s sister has finished her battle with cancer and crossed into the arms of Jesus, suffering behind, all tears wiped clean, but it’s the ones left behind who are picking up pieces, guts wrenched with grief. And these, these the same friends who have said goodbye to another sister and a father all within the space of a little more than four seasons and how can one bear such sorrow? And I pause with tears reminded life is such a fragile gift. Here today and gone tomorrow.
Then there’s the friend who just can’t find an end to pain. The doctors are trying and the answers are grim but no one can say if and when there will ever be an end to the journey. And I don’t know what to say to either of them because heartbreak is not a quick fix. It isn’t something that goes away in a flash and I know all too well that chronic anything turns straws into heavy burdens and those burdens break backs and sever spirits and I want to be the friend that journeys all the seasons and not just the fair weather ones. So I call to say I’m bringing a meal and pack it up to cart down the street and I come and sit and listen because sometimes it’s not what you say but what you do that speaks the loudest. I know because I’ve been on the receiving end one too many times. And it’s the friend who listens and weeps with those who weep that brings balm to wounds. The willingness to be there…to show up says love, because we are lying to everyone if we think we can go it alone.
We sit down to a humble supper of breakfast fare and David walks us through the significance of the night as we make pretend our pancakes are bread. He tells of Jesus last meal with his disciples, the ones he loves, all the while knowing what was ahead. Of Jesus slipping away to the garden to pray. And I feel as if I am journeying with him there tonight, heart full of sorrow and despair wanting any way possible for my loved ones to not have to face the cup of suffering. And I’m struck as I hear the story again for the hundredth time that even the Son of God longed for companionship at his darkest hour. The Book says he requested his disciples to stay with him and keep watch. To be near, present while he shed tears and pleaded with his Father and opened his fists to exchange his own will for whatever Papa wanted.
And I want to be that friend. The friend who meets in the garden to pray. Who stands guard. Who doesn’t flinch in the face of suffering that won’t end and who doesn’t come with all the answers but with a heart of steadfastness instead. I want to be the one who stays awake and aware, who doesn’t let my own convenience and conceit dictate. Because we all will face days and weeks and months and perhaps years of cups we don’t want to drink and it’s the ones who travel with us that lighten the load by carrying us to the Shepherd who’s been there and who is acquainted with sorrow and pain. I want to be the one who comes and waits.
“Each time you drink this cup remember me.” 1 Cor. 11:25