Learning from Loss

Last week, a sweet friend died. Although she was battling cancer, her death came more suddenly than expected.

As odd as it sounds, Tammy and I met on the street. At first we nodded or waved as we passed each other on our daily walks. Eventually, one of us turned and joined the other so we could walk and talk. It didn’t take long for us to walk together on a regular basis and share situations that were going on in our lives. Soon we were praying for each other, talking on the phone, or meeting for breakfast. Friendship blossomed.

When Tammy began having back pain, I recommended my chiropractor. Our walks together became less frequent. Then, after several weeks of not seeing her, and travel that pulled me from my normal schedule, I called and left a message for her. She didn’t return the call. The next day, I saw a neighbor and asked about Tammy. It was then I learned she was seriously ill and fighting for her life. I was shocked, but also wondered how I’d lost touch so completely that I wasn’t aware of her situation.

Since Tammy’s death, I’ve thought a lot about relationships and what I’ve learned from the illness and death of a friend. Here are some things to consider as you attempt to maintain forward motion during the illness or following the sudden loss of a friend:

Each person knows us in a different way – After Tammy’s death, many people I don’t know shared stories and pictures on social media. This reminded me that relationships are unique and multifaceted. Each of us connects with a person in different ways and on different levels. Friendships wax and wane during various seasons of life. That doesn’t make one relationship better than another. It just underscores the complex intertwining of lives and the impact change has on relationships.

Time with a friend or loved one may be shorter than we imagine – As we dash around in the hustle and bustle that is life, we rarely think that today may be the last time we see someone, or that an event may occur that changes our normal interaction. Often we don’t fully appreciate relationships because we don’t expect them to end any time soon. I wonder how our relationships would change if we knew time was short. Would we talk on a deeper level? Would we show greater concern, express greater love, or pray for each other more frequently?

Many times we disconnect when circumstances change – Although hardly ever intentional, often, when illness comes or situations intervene, we don’t stay in touch. While I talked to Tammy some after her cancer diagnosis, and later, when she was in remission, we didn’t see each other on a regular basis. A number of elements factored in, but I’m sorry I didn’t make more of an effort.

Cherish today – Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from the sudden death of my friend is to enjoy today. Find something joyous each day about your interaction with friends and loved ones. Thank them. Compliment. Encourage. Express love. Look for positives instead of negatives. Be grateful for the gift of relationships and treat each interaction as if today is your most precious and important time together. Tomorrow may bring the unexpected so make the most of today.

“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” (Proverbs 27:9 NLT)

“When three of Job’s friends heard of all the tragedy that had befallen him, they got in touch with each other and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him.” (Job 2:11 TLB)

 

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