I was sitting on a plane at the
Milwaukee airport getting ready for takeoff
last April when I received word via text message that a childhood friend had
passed away a few moments earlier. And then on a Saturday in June as I was putting
the finishing touches on a sermon, I received a similar message about another
friend from my formative years. He lost his battle with brain cancer that
morning. Both of those guys lived on the same street where I grew up. They
lived within short walking distance of my home. And then during an early
morning breakfast meeting in July I got the same message a third time regarding
my longtime professor and mentor. He too lost a battle with cancer.
In my mind, I felt like the world should come to a screeching halt at least long enough for a few moments of respectful silence. But the plane took off on time that Wednesday afternoon in
My sermon had to be preached the next morning on schedule in June. I
chose not to tell anyone about Steve’s passing. After all they never knew
him. And I fulfilled a guest speaking
obligation the very day that my mentor passed away. Interestingly enough I
spoke at his church that evening. There was an announcement about his death
just before I got up to speak. People
seemed sad, but the evening plans went on as scheduled. I know they needed to
go on with their scheduled plans, but in my heart I resented it. It seemed wrong…
I know from firsthand experience that life in a family is changed permanently following the death of one of its members. Members of a family feel the original tremor in an overwhelming manner. But planes still take off on time… And life goes on for everyone around them. Families feel weighty grief for months and years to come. But in short order most people go back to their normal routines. After all they have to catch a plane that is most definitely going to leave on time…
This year I have learned that friends grieve too. The experience is rather unique. You feel the pain of loss and the desire to share just one more thing with the person that has died. You spend time reflecting on events and encounters from the past. But the grief journey is unique, because your desire is to reach out to your friend’s family. You are serving as well as needing to work through your own sorrow. The grief a friend experiences can therefore be a somewhat private journey.
A grieving friend however assumes an irreplaceable position in the lives of family members that have lost one of their own. The reason is relatively simple. The friend of their loved thinks that a plane should cease to take off before there is a moment of silence. And a real friend feels like his normal activities should cease while he takes a moment to reflect. And true friends are unable to strictly feel a brief flash of sadness before they go about their normal routines; because true friends grieve too…
Last time I checked there are planes taking off today right on schedule all over the country, but I am confident there is someone that has just gotten a text message flying today who deeply resents that fact. I am for that person, because I know that friends grieve too.