My Friend died on Christmas morning.
She was the kind of Friend who was also family. When I was little, she was my Mom’s best Friend, and my best friend’s Mom.
In the days when people talked on the phone, my Mom was always on the phone with this Friend.
When I was young my beloved Grandmother died, and while my parents went to the services, I stayed with this Friend.
When a hurricane hit and my Dad was out of town, my Mom took us over to this Friend’s house to ride out the storm.
We spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas with this Friend.
She taught my Sunday School class, and led my youth group.
She hosted my bridal shower, and I officiated her daughter’s (my friend’s) wedding.
Our lives have been intertwined since I was tiny. I’ve never known life without knowing my Friend.
Cancer took her life. I hate cancer.
I lost my own Dad to cancer.
I miss him all the time. It has been a lot of years, and the Pain hasn’t gone away at all. It has just found a comfortable place to sit most of the time. But sometimes it leaves its corner and stirs up trouble.
Death had the nerve to take my Friend away on Christmas day. My old Pain got up out of its place, and danced around with fresh new Pain. And Death laughed a little. Death is a jerk.
The old Pain will go back to its place soon, and the fresh new Pain will settle in somewhere too.
But I’ll be a different person, because I’ve got new Pain resting in me now.
And my friend who lost her Mom will be a new person now too. It will take her new Pain an even longer time to find a place to settle. And it won’t stay settled, it will jump up and surprise her when she least expects it – for years. I know, because that’s what mine does. And Pain, like Death, is a jerk.
I remember all the Christmases our families spent together – me, my friend, our families – her Mom was there, my Dad was there – but those days are gone. Because days go. That’s what they do. But new days come. And they can be sweet, even when they’re hard. They can be sweet even when the Pain jumps out of its corner. They can be sweet even when Death shows up like a jerk and steals away what it doesn’t deserve to have.
Death isn’t supposed to be here. Pain is an uninvited guest.
Things are supposed to be different than this.
Not everyone believes in God. But everyone believes in something. And everything I’ve experienced in my life tells me that God is more real than anything else I believe in.
One way I know God is real is because of Pain.
Why does loss hurt so much? How can we feel so much Love and hope and grief and loss at the exact same moment in time? And if Death is supposed to be here, why do we hate it so much?
This is not the way things are supposed to be.
Deep down in our souls we know that. Our souls were designed for more. They were designed to Love forever. That’s why loss hurts so much.
Death is natural. It’s a part of how the world works. But Love is Spiritual. Love is how God works. Death is for now. Love is forever.
Love is what God has done.
He has taken away Death, facing it on the cross, undoing it, and putting it in its place.
And he showed us what is coming. Life.
Death knows its time is short. That’s why it fights so hard, and takes the things it has no right to take. Because Death knows it has already lost.
And Death is afraid.
Pain can hang out for now, and have its little dances. Pain can jump out and surprise us. But when Death is gone, Pain’s days are over too. Because days go. That’s what they do.
But Love is forever.
My Friend died on Christmas morning. But on Christmas morning, Love came into the world.
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13
In loving memory of Steve and Deb – until we see them again