“I am so sorry”, I say.
She says, “I cry every day and I spend the rest of my time trying not to cry.”
I say, “It sounds so hard.”
Our lives are so far apart. Hers full of regret and pain. Struggling every day to breathe in a single molecule of hope, grateful for the smallest ray of light.
Mine is the happiest that I have ever been.
It’s not fair and I try to make sense of it. Why can’t I just give her some of my happiness? A little piece of my hope?
Once, I sat at the bedside of my Granny, watching her die. She had slipped off into some in between place deep inside herself to do the work of dying. There was some sort of process that she had to navigate before she could leave. It was a painful struggle. As she cried out and fought with an unseen enemy, I was her witness. I sat by her bed day and night for 3 days, holding vigil, experiencing some of the deepest pain in my life, because I was helpless to save her from this journey. She had to walk this dark way and I couldn’t go with her. I stood just off of the path, watching.
I stroked her hand. I combed her hair. I sang sweet songs into her ear. I accepted the fact that it was her journey. But being the witness to that journey hurt. It hurt like hell. Watching the suffering of someone that you truly love is often worse than doing the suffering yourself.
In the end, I knew that my presence and my witness mattered. Somehow I had been a midwife for my Granny's death. Standing witness to her journey was one of the most sacred acts of my life. Not so different from watching a life enter the world rather than leave it.
Today, I watch my friend live the darkest time of her life. And I long to wrap my arms around her and fend off everything that is hurtful and ugly. To bring blessing, abundance and happiness back into her life. And if there is anything at all that I can do, I will do it in a moment. But, it seems that in this situation as in that other one, I am called to be a witness. To not look away if things don’t get better for a while. To keep inviting her to tell the same old story, even though she is sick of it. To participate in the glorious act of observing a sacred journey, even when it is through the valley of the shadow of death.
**I wrote this a few days ago, but didn’t post it. I see how much it also sums up the helpless feeling that I feel in the face of horrible disasters such as Haiti.