I think that the first time our mutual friend introduced me and Daniel, she was trying to play matchmaker. It didn’t work. He and I instinctively knew that we were meant to be just friends, and we became good friends, very fast. He was exactly the kind of boy my dad wouldn’t want me spending time with – bad attitude, bad grades, and long stringy hair, all wrapped up in a black leather jacket. But I didn’t tell my parents about him. Daniel and I talked on the phone, passed notes in school, went out to chain-smoke and shoot pool. And when he needed somebody to talk to, he knew that he could show up at my car after school, and I would drive him home and listen to him.
After a while, something changed. I met Josh and quickly rearranged my world to revolve around my infatuation with him. But our relationship was volatile. We fought constantly and were in the middle of one of our regular arguments one afternoon in the school parking lot when Daniel walked up and asked to talk to me. I was so focused and fixated on Josh that I didn’t even glance at Daniel before I dismissed him.
Daniel, can’t you see we’re in the middle of a conversation?!
I blew him off quickly and easily. And I didn’t think about him again.
Until Friday afternoon when his best friend was waiting at my car to tell me that Daniel was dead of a suspected suicide.
And I had sent him away.
I wish I could tell you what I was thinking in that moment. Or what I did next. Or even what I thought about or did in the next couple of days. I only have snapshots in my mind. Me scrubbing the heavy stage makeup off my face after our church’s Easter play so that I could go to the visitation. (I don’t remember the visitation at all.) Me sitting at McDonald’s with my friends Robert and Karen before the funeral. The guidance counselor calling our group into her office and asking us to share our memories about Daniel. Josh and I standing against the back wall of Cotton Funeral Home’s chapel during the funeral – both of us unable to cry.
And then, my clearest memory. Tim. An acquaintance from church who had never met Daniel, but who saw how destroyed we all were by his death and came to the graveside service. That service took my fragile emotions and shattered them into a million pieces. Daniel’s friends and family stood around his grave weeping, and all of a sudden, I was swamped by the reality that my sweet, talented friend was gone. It was too much and I fled from the graveside, unnoticed.
Except for Tim. When I got back to Josh’s locked car, I realized I was stuck there with nowhere to run. I turned around and found Tim there. He held me that day as I cried harder than I’ve ever cried in my life. I don’t remember him saying a word, but in Tim’s presence – his being there – I found God’s love, comfort, and grace.
Margaret Feinberg says, “Your presence is one of the most meaningful, powerful things to offer to someone suffering hardship.” And she also wisely says, “Keep your words few.” (ebook locations 1865,68)
I’m better at that first part than the last part, quite honestly. But I’m trying to improve. Thanks to all of those who bear with me as I keep trying and keep learning!
This post is the final discussion of our series on Margaret Feinberg’s book, “Fight Back With Joy.” Feel free to chime in whether you’ve read the book or not. And if you have written a response to this week’s chapter, please go visit my co-facilitator, Jason, and link it up at the widget.
And stay tuned for details about our next book discussion! We’re accepting ideas if you have them!
I recently made a silly decision to be interviewed by a magazine. I didn’t think twice when I said yes to being interviewed about growing up as a pastor’s child. It’s been my identity for thirty-seven years, and I’m fairly intimate with the nuances of it. And it’s something I’ve talked and written … [Read More...]
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