“Shan, I’m an alcoholic,” my friend said to me about 9am over Skype this morning. She wouldn’t reveal her face, but I left mine showing so she could see me. “I’m so sorry, hon. What has happened the past 3 years?” She talked. I listened.
Her pain was raw and brittle – even through the slur of the alcohol. At the end of the conversation, among other things, my mind flashed back to the time she spent a Christmas with me because her family wasn’t safe – and when she told me about her years of abuse. I remembered standing next to her when she was married. I heard the echoes of the many conversations we’d shared over the years. And I was overwhelmed with her strength. And so, among other things I told her, “You can do this, but you cannot do it all yourself. It’s going to be tough, but you can let go and let God love you to wellness. You cannot do this alone.”
It’s been a tough week. I also lost a friend. A beautiful, peaceful soul. As our friendship was forming some years ago, she took me down to the neighborhood she was raised in because she discovered I’d never had a deep-fried pork chop. “Whaaat??” she said, appalled. “Well, we’ll just have to fix that, girl!”
And so it went. I took her out for scones and espresso: she took me out for deep-fried pork chops. We talked about the differences between pork chops and scones; growing up in a farming community vs urban Seattle; being white and Presbyterian vs black and Presbyterian. We talked about falling in love, the challenges of parenting, and so many little things that make up the stuff of life.
Some days the world just feels so unrepairable. Like shattered glass: shards flung around the room… no way to reassemble into form or function. Death comes. Long seasons of grief dig under our skin without our consent. We discover that we are not nearly as in control as we imagine we are.
What is our essential work in the world if it is not to be shelter and strength for each other? To remind each other that we are stronger than we feel … to be the place where we can sit comfortably after a long time apart. We are to be each other’s menders. I don’t know about you, but I have had people in my life at critical junctures that sort of massaged my heart til it could beat on it’s own.
I did not tell my friend who died this week that she was a heart mender. So I tell you to help us both remember to say the things that need to be said – And to live fully in our own skins, savoring the beauty of each other. This is our essential work in the world.