When I went to a memorial service this weekend, one of my girls said, “why are YOU going? You didn’t really know her.” She was right. I knew Sandy only fringely – but people I care about loved her deeply. “Memorials are not only to honor those who are gone,” I told her, “but to offer love and support to those who remain.” It is true that sometimes we just send a card or an email and perhaps that is enough.
Here is a thing about me. I love easily and seem to have been endowed with an excess of empathy. I think my children take advantage of this from time to time. For some reason, particularly when someone I know is in pain or grief, I carry them with me in a visceral way. In my thoughts. My prayers. My feelings. Even physically in my heart or gut. It is not always a welcomed thing, believe me. And sometimes I have to ignore parts of it in order to stay present to the most important people in my life.
I know there are others out there like this. I am not unusual. I experienced it when my youngest daughter was sick for 8 months. They were the people who weren’t at the center of my life but who offered surprising and needed support. One neighbor brought a game boy (which she was too sick to use, sadly, but it didn’t matter – it really was the effort and kindness that mattered.) Another woman I had met a year earlier who lives many states away sent a care package with a scarf, a book, and some goodies. They were not the ones who helped me survive day to day through my daughter’s misery, but they formed a sort of larger bubble around our little family that embodied to me what I have come to believe about God, “we are the large, encompassing mama arms of love holding you here.” It helped me lean back into them – and I would say into God – a little in a way I couldn’t with those who were carrying her pain every day.
At the service for Sandy, her husband who is a pastor friend I have much admiration for said, and I paraphrase, “For all these years I have shared with you theological insights and reflections and right now none of it means a thing. What does mean something to me is …. your kindness.” It was hanky time. Not only because of what he and Sandy had experienced from their extended community, but also because he so beautifully expressed what we all know. That is, at the end of the day, love truly matters most.
So the next time you think, “they have all of the support they need,” or you think you are too “fringe” to offer some kindness, remember: you might be creating a resting place for someone who really needs it. You are the “large, encompassing mama arms of love.” Nothing could matter more.