I returned home after dropping my daughter Riley off at college fully expecting grief to overwhelm me. I thought I would feel depressed and spend large amounts of time crying or in bed. Once I got home, though, a funny thing happened: I actually felt okay. Not that I didn’t miss her because I did. Driving away from her while we both cried was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But contrary to my expectations, I wasn’t devastated when I arrived home. I kept checking in with myself wondering why I felt alright and questioning whether I would falter at any moment. I expressed my bewilderment to my therapist who said she thought I’d made it through the hardest part. I honestly didn’t understand how or why I was making it without repeatedly falling apart.
During this entire time, before and after taking her to school, my friends kept checking in with me. They sent texts, left voice mails, commented on my Facebook posts. On Sunday at church, almost everyone asked how I was doing. A couple of my friend groups scheduled lunches to make sure I stayed busy. They even gave me gifts, sentimental reminders that they were here for me while Riley was away.
Then, I got a text from a friend who said, “You’ve been in my thoughts and prayers friend!” And it dawned on me. All of the people who’d been thinking of me or praying for me were keeping me afloat. They were steering me toward a safe landing. They were God’s hands and feet when they reached out. They were God’s mouthpiece when they told me they would be there for me. They showed God’s love with their empathy and kindness. They followed God’s ways by surrounding me with light and friendship when I could’ve been overcome by darkness.
I’ve heard people say they’ve “felt” other people’s prayers. I admit that I wasn’t entirely sure what people meant by that. Intellectually, I appreciated all of the prayers for me from others. But this time, in these circumstances, I actually felt buoyed by the compassion my friends demonstrated. I felt lighter and stronger and more capable of navigating these new waters.
I’m not saying I won’t encounter rough seas at any point of this journey, but I know now I can turn to any of those who offered help when I need them. They will row out to steady me and steer me away from the storms and the rocky shores. They’ll point me toward the beacon of God’s love just by being themselves. This is the gift of community.
I’m grateful for everyone who has taken a moment to think of me over the last few weeks. And I ask that they continue to send waves of positivity my way. I’ve learned how it feels to be held. I only hope that I can serve as a safe harbor in return someday. Thank you, Friends.