The R.E.M. song Losing My Religion popped into my mind recently. I am not losing my religion, but I played with the words losing my…
Losing my place
Losing my voice
Losing my mind
Losing my patience
Losing my grip, and so on.
What I settled on, though, what I am actually losing, are my confidants, those people who know me well and love me anyway.
In the past three years, I have lost three close friends to cancer. They were people who shared so much of my life—conversations, meals, vacations, spirituality, and all the good and bad news that comes with daily living. They knew my family history, my personal struggles and my challenges at work. They knew me, and I feel their loss deeply.
Now a fourth close friend is dying from cancer, and I keeping vigil. Throughout the days, I am aware of his suffering, and I pray for his suffering to end.
Although he lives at a distance, we have stayed close through frequent, sometimes daily, phone calls. Cancer has changed that. It has taken his voice, making phone calls challenging. I still call and leave messages, and he calls once a week, but it can be difficult to understand what he is saying. I am already grieving.
I think of losing my confidants from two perspectives. One has to do with my losses. It would be easy to feel sorry for myself and to shut down in order to protect my heart from repeatedly being broken, but that is not God’s way. In spite of how my heart hurts, in spite of my sorrow, God asks me to hope and trust. God invites me to see the gift in the heartbreak—to remember how fortunate I am for having had such close friendships, to be grateful for the blessing of friends.
The second has to do with my friends’ perspective. I was blessed to be with Jim throughout his illness and at the moment of his death, to watch him come to peace with his situation and then go to God. I treasure that gift and hope that when it is my time, I can be as fearless as he was. In his dying, he taught me a great deal about trust and hope and living. He was the first of these three friends to die, and when the other two were near death, I prayed that they would know the peace Jim did at the end of his life.
The mystery of life, death and resurrection plays out every day, but in no greater way than at the end of life. I remind myself of St. John Chrysostom’s words, Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are. I carry my friends in my heart.
The R.E.M. song goes on to say, Life is bigger. It’s bigger than you….
God invites me to trust and hope—and to let go when it is time to let go. Life is bigger than me.