It was an early fall morning; the warmth of the coffee mug against my chest was a comforting contrast against the chilly air. Neighbors were beginning to head off to work and my little hometown was awakening.
This was the best part of the day. Here on my front porch I easily connected with God, prayed for my family, and in general started out on the right foot. The antics of nearby squirrels caught my attention, and for some reason I thought about Karen, my childhood friend, and wondered how she was doing.
We’d been best friends from Kindergarten until she moved away, just before high school graduation. We’d done some wild and crazy things, and on the very rare occasion of getting together as adults, we laughed as if they’d happened yesterday. After Karen moved, we lost touch for the most part. She had gone out of state to live with her dad, but her sisters had stayed here with their mom, and I’d catch up on her life when I saw them at the grocery store.
Last I knew she was living in Arizona with her husband and children. I wondered if she was healthy, whether her hair was still long and thick; if she’d stayed married and how her kids were doing. By now they could be grown and it occurred to me that she may even have grandchildren.
With my coffee cup now empty, I finished my quiet time by thanking God for the many blessings of my life. I also said a quick prayer for Karen, then went inside to start my daily routine.
Later that evening I received a phone call from Karen that rocked my world. She was sobbing hysterically, trying to talk through her tears. It was difficult to understand her; I listened intently, trying to make sense of her words.
“MY SON IS DEAD!” she screamed. Then she repeated it, and then again. My mind refused to comprehend what she was saying. With intense energy and pain, she relayed the events of earlier that afternoon.
“I was talking to him on my way home from work; we talk every day,” she said. “I stopped at the store for a few things and when I got home, he was dead!” Her youngest son, 18 years old and graduated from high school only three months prior, had committed suicide after hanging up from their telephone conversation.
Karen had not detected anything out of the ordinary.
Already having to make funeral arrangements, she would have him buried in Michigan next to her brother. She needed practical guidance in getting things done, but mostly she was trying to understand how this could happen. Nothing made sense.
“Why, why, why?” she sobbed over and over and over again. The only thing I had to offer was a room at my house when she came home, and she readily accepted the invitation.
The next night when she arrived I hardly recognized her. Dark, puffy circles had formed under her eyes and her face was swollen from crying. We embraced and she cried until the shoulder of my blouse was soaked.
Her cries rose from the very core of her being, as full of pain as nothing I’d ever heard before.
At the funeral, several high school classmates came to offer their support and condolences. They hugged freely and she openly accepted their gifts of love. In turn she experienced a small, inner sense of peace.
Over the years since then, tragedies have found their way to most of us, including the death of my own adult son last December. At that time I had to lean on my friends for comfort and strength, as Karen had done in her time of loss.
God tells us in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
And so it is in real, everyday life when hard times slam us against the wall and our faith suddenly dries up. One of the ways our Heavenly Father extends His grace is through the love and understanding of friends. When we can accept that gift, we are encouraged and strengthened to continue our spiritual journey on to the higher level of true and heartfelt praise.
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