“We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” ~ I Thessalonians 4:14-18
A friend of mine lost her niece to cancer today, at the much-too-young age of nineteen. This particular friend had been an absolute rock when my husband died, so I wanted to do something to show my support for her. She was the one who made sure my car was cleaned (after I drove my ill husband in it to urgent care), and who arranged for the haz-mat people to clean my house, as well as took all of my husband’s hockey gear to be professionally cleaned as well (mostly as a precaution, since bacterial meningitis doesn’t live long outside a carrier). She replaced the things the cleaning team threw away. She took care of so many things while I was at the hospital, things I was thankful not to have to deal with when I got home.
Naturally, after all this, I wanted to do something for her. However, I couldn’t think of a thing to do. There wasn’t anything to clean, or replace. Her niece’s death, while horrible, was expected, due to the course of her illness. I was at a loss.
But then I remembered the thing this friend did that I valued most after my husband’s death: she showed up.
Since she, like me, is a teacher, summer was a time that she could easily drop by my house for a visit. So week after week, that’s just what she did. She made sure I had company, to cry with, process with, and chat with. Most of those visits she didn’t bring anything, she just showed up.
So that’s what I did. And it was great. We spent several hours chatting and grieving, mourning her loss, while being grateful for the fact that her niece is home in heaven.
Too often, when faced with another person’s grief, we fail to act. We think we have to do something, or be able to offer solutions, that we convince ourselves there is nothing we can do to help. Well, guess what? You can’t fix death and there is nothing you can do that will bring the person back. You can, however, be the friend who shows up. Showing up seems too easy, and thus we discount its importance. But especially in the case of believers, we need to show up. Paul writes to the Thessalonians that they are to comfort one another with the words about Christ’s return. What better time to comfort a believer with hope than after the death of a believing loved one?
If you know someone who is facing tragedy or hard times, stop wondering what to do. You already know what to do. Go show up. You’ll both be glad you did.