*Rose is the name I am using to refer to my girlfriends, each one of them “in their white lab coats, gorgeous shoes, and steel cases of oxygen.” (Reluctant Pilgrim by Enuma Okoro)
I never knew that when I met you, I was stepping onto one of God’s provisional stones that I would later need to survive. The beginning of our friendship was colored with cartwheels, or car wheels, or college. Or perhaps we met later, through church or neighborhood, or family. I see now how creative He was in using people and places and time to begin forming an army. No matter how or when we first forged our friendship, Rose, He has used you to channel His love.
For I have read the books on grief. I have heard the sermons on suffering. I have memorized the verses on pain. But it has been you, my dear friend, who has put on His skin and shown me His face. Your friendship has been deeper than my doubt, and your selfless love has been bigger than my unbelief. And when I have begged for just one sign that God was present, in you, He became human. In you, I experienced a miracle.
Rose, you know that I am not a planner. You know that even on my best day, organization often falls forgotten deep within the wooden cracks of my home. You knew that under such stress and such grief, you would have to step in to create a sense of order out of the chaos that had erupted. So you planned meals and errands. You delegated our needs among many. You did it all with such ease and without hesitation, that at the time I didn’t even know that you were at work. But friend, now I see that though I wanted the large flames of the burning bush, God was quietly present in the smallest of details.
You brought light into my home with your humor and your sass. You brought me wine instead of water, and with you, my laughter returned. You came with your stories, each antic and drop of drama, the perfect medicine. When God seemed stagnant and separate, in you Rose, He was vibrant and alive.
I know that my son’s death cracked open your heart as well as mine. I know it caused you to witness your worst nightmare and experience its staggering pain. You, too, have bled from the shards of the world’s brokenness. You have your own family, home and community. You have your own struggles and sorrows. And I have not been able to bear those. You stepped deeply into my grief, and I have tip-toed around yours. But you keep stepping with me. This is the part that amazes me the most about you. For how can I question the character of God when I have seen its goodness come alive in you? How can I wonder if He feels any of this when I have seen your tears, Rose, and know that they are His?
You came, Rose, when I called that morning that the earth’s crust opened up and darkness fell, that morning that I first sensed the guttural ache of hell’s deep despair. When I think back to that morning, I still cannot see any light. I have tried. I looked through every window again and again, searching for some sign from God that He was there. And I cannot find one. But I do remember you on that morning, how you endured trauma out of love for me. I remember my head in your lap, your fingers through my hair, and your whispers beneath my wails. And I wonder if maybe, on the darkest morning, even then, He was holding me.
Rose, these past months I have groped my way through the dark, but I have never wandered alone. Your gentle hand on my back, your soft presence by my side, your selfless commitment to walk the long road have guided and shaped my steps. And when I have not been able to feel my God on grief’s lonely road, I have seen you, my friend, and known that He is here.
Before Webb died, I wondered if I would ever survive the loss of one of my own. I wondered if I would still be able to believe. And those questions enter my heart as quietly as they exit, even today. But in you, Rose, I have sat in the dark of creation with all of earth’s longing, next to the manger. In you, Rose, I have heard the faint cries of a God become flesh. With you, I have slumped my way to Bethlehem. And in you, my friend, I have witnessed the miracle of the Incarnation.
Thank you, my dear friend. You are loved from the depths.