Friday, January 6, 2012

what i am learning from pre-grieving.

{photo by A Bryan Photo}

I have been guilty.

That's what I want you to know first: I have been guilty.

And if this rather lengthy pre-grieving process is teaching me anything, it is that I have to become the change I wish to see.

If a friend grieves, I should make a meal. Send a card. Call to check in, even if my calls are greeted with voicemail recordings. Shoot a quick email.

Something, anything.

You know how I feel about Facebook. You know my thoughts on friendships and how I too often fail at being the friend I should be.

All of these thoughts have been stewing around in my head this week as I watch my family muddle through my grandmother's final days. I cannot tell you exactly what it feels like to be on this roller coaster; I can only tell you that it is, in one word, exhausting. I have a cloud over my head that just won't go away, not until my grandmother has been greeted into the next life and her loved ones have been granted peace.

What has meant the most in these difficult hours are the friends who have cared enough to show their love in even the tiniest of ways: a quick phone call, a meal for my family, an offer to help remove the burden of former commitments from my hands.  

Unfortunately -- and I think this speaks less about my friends and more about the times we are living in -- there haven't been a ton of those small gestures. I think technology and busy-ness have hindered those things. Why send a meal when a family can just buy takeout? Why spend money on a stamp when you could send a Facebook or a text message? 

Here is why: Because cards are meaningful. Handwritten words are special. They mean you took the time and effort to think about me, to think about my family. 

Meals let me know you cared enough about me to share something you made. They mean that while you were cooking or after you were done, you looked at what you made, and you said: "I should give the rest to someone else." 

Maybe we are too consumed with ourselves. Maybe we spend too much time online. Maybe we're just worried we won't be able to do enough, and so we do nothing. 

But when friends are grieving, or they've had a hard couple of months, or a baby has just been born, it's time to step outside of ourselves.

This summer, I was reading Shauna Niequist's Bittersweet, and I remember having a discussion with my family about how we respond to hurting hearts. And although I can't remember Niequist's exact words, I'm pretty sure they were something like: "Do something."

Meaning? Stop waiting for permission. Please, for goodness' sake, stop asking. Just do.

And in this coming year, that's one way I want to become better.

I want to get better at the doing. (It's part of saying no to other things, so I can say yes to the important ones.) I want to make meals and send cards, not because I'm part of a church care group or because someone else told me to, but simply because I am a friend. And that is what friends do.

Right before Christmas, before my grandmother fell and things changed, a friend called to tell me she'd left a meal for me and Jordan on our doorstep. There was no reason for it. We were not sick. I am not pregnant. At the time, we were not in the midst of grief.

She just had a new recipe she liked, and she shared it with us by making a casserole dish of it and sending it our way.

I cannot tell you how much that meant to me.

That is what friendship looks like.

And these past few days have taught me: The world needs more of it. More meals, more cards, more phone calls. A little less texting, less asking permission. Fewer Facebook messages and casual "how are yous" and "what can I dos."

The world needs a little more doing, and when this season of time passes, I will know better. I will leave these days with a better understanding of what friendship looks like and how best to handle those who are hurt and grieving. And you know what? Maybe I won't wait until illness or death or pain to show someone I care. Maybe I will be the kind of friend who sends random cards and leaves casseroles on the front step, just because. Because they are worth it. Because it is my calling.

Because really, that's just what friends do.


Jordan Jones said...

Nice post. It puts everything in perspective to be on the other end of a nice gesture.

waytenmom said...

You are so right, Annie. First of all I send support and compassion your way. I was not aware of your grandmother's situation. This is a bit of a departure from what you said, but I know I am always grateful when I ask a sick/grieving person what I can do and they say something tangible, such as my friend who just had cancer surgery who answered with "yes, take me grocery shopping." Thank you for helping remind us that the way in which a sentiment is shared, and the motive, matters. {hugs}

monster cakes said...

I love this. I love that it didn't convict, but it inspired me to do more. I'm already good at snail mail, but why should I feel content or like I've done my "duties" as a friend simply because I'm good at sending cards. I need to step out of my comfort zone and make them meals. Try new things that not only comfort and love on them but also stretch and grow me as a person. Thanks for this friend! xoxo

Laken said...

I agree so much with this post. I think one of the best things you can do for someone is to feed them. And I find myself always making lists and trying to decide what I should cook for someone who needs a nice gesture from a friend. Today I have a play date with a friend who just had a baby and I'm taking her a homemade lasagna and breakfast muffins. And I've actually been brainstorming what I can make that won't fall part during a USPS trip to Florida. So be on the look out for that, Mrs Jones :)

Purposely at Home said...

amazing thoughts, are in my thoughts and prayers...


Rachael L. Anderson said...

I love this post. Thanks for the reminder to "just do it" (nike (tm):) instead of hesitating or feeling uncomfortable.

ashleycartwright said...

I agree with you, we just had a baby and although the emails, facebook messages and texts are nice - the phone calls, meals and visits picked me up when I needed it most! My goal this year is to make more phone calls rather than send a message and make meals for others. Thank you for your blog, it inspires me each day as I read it. Your family is in our prayers.

Amanda said...

Thank you so much for writing this. It spoke to my heart. To my character and how simply it can be to stop being selfish. Just for a bit. Seriously, I wish I could call you and thank you in person. :)

Sabrina said...

"The world needs more of it. More meals, more cards, more phone calls." You are so right!

Cindy P said...

I love this post! It is inspiring. So often I think to myself "I need to send so-and-so a card because their grandmother passed away" or because they're having a rough time right now and I forget or put it off and it's too far after the fact. I need to be more intentional and actually put the card in the mail when I think about it. But more so than that, you've inspired me to do more than just send cards. So thank you.

On another note, I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother's life coming to an end. I've been there. My grandmother passed away the day before Thanksgiving in '08 and it was a long, long 2008. She had cancer so it was almost a year long process of watching her die. But November was the hardest and I completely know what you're going through and I'm so, so sorry. I've been praying for you and your family since you first mentioned on your blog that she wasn't doing well. I hope that she goes to meet Our Father soon and that you and your family find peace in the midst of the tragedy.