I just got home from a trip to North Carolina. I loved the huge lush trees and rolling hills set against the bright blue sky. The air smelled fresh and clean. But I was there for a somber reason.
Growing up in New York, Amanda and I had become best friends when she moved into my town. I showed her around school and she invited me to church. We both have red hair and like to sing, and soon people began to think we were related. We laughed and cried about boys and school and friendships as we grew up together. We went off to college as roommates and were still living together when we began dating our husbands. I fell head over heels for my husband and Amanda and Derek followed us by just six months. I got to watch them date. They were so sweet and kind to each other. The loved to run and talk and help people. They respected each other but most of all, really enjoyed each other. Derek told me he wished there could be a snow day just so he could stay in and talk to her. They were at home with each other. We have kept close by email and phone over the years as we have both moved all over the country with our growing families, but it had been many long years since I had seen Amanda.
I was able to finally make that trip to North Carolina to visit Amanda. Unfortunately, it was to minister and mourn with her. The week before, she had gone running with her husband. They were waiting at a crosswalk. The light changed and they started to cross, when a car ran a red light and struck her husband. He was rushed to the hospital with severe head trauma. Amanda stayed by his side for days of tests and some encouraging progress. But after a week in the hospital, he succumbed to his injuries and passed away. I just couldn’t believe it when she told me. And I knew right away I had to go to her.
Since I was not family, I was in a unique position to just be with her. I had no connection to anyone but her and so I was able to be with her and talk with her on trips to the grocery store, preschool pickup and shopping for the right shoes for the funeral (wedges are good for wet grass). I made cookies I knew she would like and played with her kids. I loved being able to tell stories with her and Derek’s siblings, and we stayed up well past midnight every night. We watched the community come together in prayer and love as they hung running shoes near the intersection where he was hit.
On the day of the funeral, another one of our roommates had flown in. She and I stood under an umbrella in the pouring rain, outside of the family tent but watching over everyone. As we stood silently side by side I had the strangest thought… that this is what angels must feel like. They must feel love and concern, and yet feel not quite connected to everything. They are free to step back and see the big picture, yet also to come close to the ones who need them most.
I cherish those days that I got to spend with Amanda and her family. I got to know her children and extended family in a time when all of our hearts were tender. And I learned a great lesson. I didn’t do anything big. I had no preconceived notion of what I would do when I got there. I just went to her, with no plan to fix anything or say magical words to take the hurt away. I just went to her and stayed with her.
So if you know someone is hurting, don’t let fear paralyze you. Go to them. Just go.