10  12 2004

On being there for a friend

We have been journeying with a friend. We (Celia and Ron) are both on the preschool board at our church. One of our fellow board members Meg unexpectedly lost her husband 3 weeks ago. One of her daughters and our son Zach are in class together at preschool (she calls him Whack). Meg’s husband Jack had an accident near Memphis and was rushed to a hospital in Memphis, where he died about a week later. Our family was driving home from Louisiana when we received news of the accident. Our trip took us through Memphis, so we stopped and spent an evening with the family at the hospital. We have learned so much in the last 3 weeks. There are so many stories and lessons we could include, but we’ll keep it to a few.

Lesson 1: Make time to stop. Being there for each other is paramount. It’s not about knowing how to be there, it’s about being willing to risk awkwardness and the unknown. Had we driven through Memphis without stopping, we would have saved some time. Maybe the family would have missed our support. We certainly would not even be aware of the enrichment and the experience of God’s abundance that we would have missed. Being there was the first step on the journey of growing together. Your friends become family when you walk through the fire together.

Lesson 2: The church is a big family and a small family at the same time. When we returned home from Memphis, we talked about what else we could do to help. We have a list of people who have heard Celia sing. You are receiving this email because you are on that list. We called several churches in the Memphis area from our list. Of course, the church showed up with visits, food, prayer and support. Crisis is one of those times when we are at our best as a community of faith. Part of what we love about our lives and our line of service is that we often get to experience the connection that is ours in faith.

Lesson 3: There is ALWAYS something you can do–be creative. We talked about what else we could do beyond praying and calling friends in Memphis. We knew the family was staying at a hotel, so we got the number of the fax line at the hotel (there was no charge to receive faxes). Celia sent a daily inspirational thought to the family via fax, knowing that it would be left under their hotel room door. No phone to answer, no extra errand–a supportive thought just showed up. At the funeral visitation, Ron went through the line and introduced himself. He was just another supportive visitor until he was introduced as being the fax lady’s other half. One of the family members said to Ron, “You’re married to the fax lady?” The faxes and the thought made a difference.

Lesson 4: Get to know your acquaintances. They have a life and a story beyond your limited contact. We sat together through several preschool board meetings. We shared both good and routine moments as we have talked about the details of running a quality preschoo, but we didn’t know much of each others lives before this loss. By not intentionally carving out time together, we missed some joyful times with a delightful couple.

Lesson 5: Cherish the people you love. Your time together is a gift. Meg has since told us many things about her and Jack’s marriage. They really liked each other and had fun together. She has said that she would rather have had only ten years sharing that kind of love, than a whole lifetime of “average.” That is an easy statement to comprehend. They crammed a lifetime into ten years. MAKE your relationships great.

Thanks you for what you do for each other and for how you’ve enriched our lives. Merry Christmas–may the Christ child be re-born in your hearts this season. God’s peace . . . Celia and Ron Whitler

PS visit “in the neighborhood benefit” to learn more.


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