There were hundreds of people that stood in line for over an hour to give me a hug. People streamed through the school gymnasium where Avery's visitation was being held from 3:45pm until after 9:00 at night. People I was related to. People who I have known all my life. People I worked with. People I had only known for a short time. And people I had never met.
I remember meeting a man who was holding the most precious little girl. She reached her arms out to me and climbed into my arms. "What's your name?" she asked, squeezing my cheeks, pulling back my cheeks, morphing my face and smile into silly expressions. "Bridget. What's yours?" "Chelsie. You're pretty."
Perhaps it sounds bizarre, and maybe if you ever go through something like this, you'll understand what I'm about to say: I needed her. At that moment in time, I needed this innocent child to squeeze my cheeks and tell me I was pretty.
Her father had never met me. He had heard about Avery's death and felt compelled to stand in line to hug a complete stranger.
It was these moments of complete goodness that helped pull me through. Made me remember that life was good. Made me think that if goodness surrounded me, nothing bad could ever happen.
Except that's not how real life works.
You would think by now I know how real life works.
This past Friday a friend of mine passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. He was a couple years younger than me, laughed louder than me, lived louder than me, and loved life louder than me. He's a daddy and a brother and a pumpkin grower and a steer shower. He's a practical joker and the most amazing photographer I've ever met. He would capture quiet country moments in a way that would rock your emotions. Did I really tear up when I saw that picture of the round hay bale? Yes. Yes, I did.
He and his family were just standing in my line, giving me their hugs and support. They were just holding me up. Now it is our turn to hold them up.
In the past few weeks our community has been rocked to the core. We have had a Mother and a Father pass away, reminding us that our parents could suddenly be called home. We have been reminded that our children can die without warning. And we have now been shown that we, ourselves, are not immune to our own mortality.
And that can be very, very scary.
Throughout all my hurt and confusion and feelings of loss, I go back to God.
Have you ever gone to summer camp? You meet people and go swimming and have fun and create memories and inside jokes and think the food sucks but the friends are great, even though that the one girl in the next cabin is kind of mean but overall everyone else is cool. You think summer camp is an awesome experience and you're so glad you went, but you also kind of just want to go home and be with your mom and dad and sleep in your own bed again. And when it's time to go home, you hug your friends, proclaim it went too fast, and worry that even though everyone says they'll stay in touch, they might get too busy and forget about you.
Well, maybe we're all just here at summer camp. And some of us are in the Wisconsin cabin and some of us are in the Arkansas cabin. And the really cool kids are way across camp in the Paris cabin. And someday camp will be over for us and it'll be time for us to go home.
It's just that we've never actually been home... we just have to trust that home is awesome. We have to trust home is filled with only love and goodness and perfection. That there are no annoying angels that try to one-up each other or make fun of the velcro sneakers you're wearing. There are no mortgages or custody disputes or hunger or sickness. It's just perfectly, wonderfully home.
Avery had asked me recently if she could learn how to show steers at our county fair. My friend Josh was very active showing steers. I'm thinking that Avery is right next to Josh, asking him hundreds of questions about cows. Another thing Avery wanted was her own camera, a professional grade one. (At least you can eat the bovine.) Josh took amazing photographs of nature, animals and country landscapes. When I went through Avery's phone I found all these pictures of country landscapes. My older daughter, Jadrian, explained that when they were together she was always taking pictures like that. I believe that right now Josh is holding Avery's perfect hand, zooming around the heavens and the earth and the stars, pointing out the most amazing landscapes ever.
So, why does this happen? Why do we have to lose people we love? I don't know. Maybe to remind us that life is short. Maybe to remind us to be nice to the lady in front of us in the check out line because you don't know what kind of struggle or hardship she's experiencing. Or maybe to remind us that we have a place to go home to.
|photo credit: Josh Yates|