It’s the season of saying goodbye. My sister-friends Elaine and Nicole celebrated their mother’s life this month, and immediately afterwards, their aunt’s.
That’s a lot for anyone to take in.
Recently, an acquaintance of mine wrote an important piece about holding space. I saw that in action this week, and I am forever changed because of it.
Elaine and I, friends since high-school, have long promised to be there for each other when our parents pass away. The magnitude of that promise impressed upon me this week as I did my best to fulfill my part of the deal. I flew home on short notice, and spent the week with my friend. I couldn’t be there for the funeral—something I regret—but I was there for the time afterwards, and I know it’s the time I was supposed to be there for.
As we packed up their mom’s apartment, it was a blessing to share that time with Elaine and her sister. There were many matter-of-fact moments, several tearful moments, and even some laugh-out-loud moments. This is the new normal for her, but she is a woman who believes in facing things head on. I respect that about her. There will be some emotionally wrought moments ahead for her, of course.
We’ve already discovered it isn’t the “big days” like Mother’s Day that inflict the most pain. It’s the unexpected sneak-up-on-you seconds that take your breath away—handing in medication to the pharmacy, turning over the apartment keys, holding a family ring.
What joy to see Elaine and her sister-now-my-sister Nicole love each other in the process. I met Nicole when she was five or so. She’s a decade younger than Elaine, and I haven’t seen much of her since then. Now she is a beautiful woman, happily married, mom of two respectful young men. She loves generously, laughs freely. She was as concerned for me as I was for her, but she was grieving. Such graciousness in spirit is rare, but it is a trait she shares with Elaine. After spending just a few hours together, Nicole and I decided to adopt each other.
And that’s the thing about moments like these. Elaine and I have been friends forever. Her sister has always been her sister, someone I heard news about, but cared for from a distance.
This week, death shifted things.
Because of the timing, I had the unexpected blessing to share a Mother’s Day lunch with my mom, my sister and my niece. It’s good to be reminded these moments are precious and few even when—especially when—family dynamics are complicated.
Death shifted things, as it always does. I hadn’t expected to leave this week with the gift of new sisters, but I did. I couldn’t be more grateful.
We’re celebrating lives lived. And lives to be lived still.