When we were in the hospital, shortly after learning that our daughter would likely never come home, I remember having a conversation. My husband and I stood in the muted colors of the Ronald McDonald House asking each other:
Should we let them in?
Neither of us wanted to. Letting in our small group felt too raw, too personal. Not because we didn’t love them or know they loved us, but because it was absolutely terrifying. They’d never seen us this way. We had never seen ourselves this way: utterly broken, completely stripped bare, the most vulnerable version of ourselves.
The past week, we hadn’t eaten, barely slept. My entire body buzzed with adrenaline and yet was numb with fatigue. I was weak with heartache and physical pain. Our eyes were bloodshot from crying, constantly crying. Our bodies had physically slumped, shrunk. Our strength was paper thin.
In this place, like all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, it feels easiest to hide. But something struck me that day I believe to be true. To invite them in—literally, putting their names on that front desk list—and of course, figuratively, was the only way we wouldn’t walk alone.
These are the people who are going to walk with us…after. I said.
Some of our friends came that night to meet our daughter for the first and last time. They saw her covered in tubes and connected to machines and somehow still so perfect and whole. They came and wrapped themselves around us and saw our tears and cried their own. They filled the chapel and prayed. They touched her sweet face. I wish I could say it was wonderful, but it was also terrible. It probably would’ve been easier to hide, to be alone, to stay concealed in our own bubble of fear and pain and vulnerability. And yet now, we had a small army of people who could fathom a slice of our grief.
We left the hospital 10 days later without our daughter. She was gone from this earth. We were not and are not the same.
I don’t know what would’ve happened if we’d decided to do it all alone, but I believe that letting them in was inviting them to our journey of grieving, to the very first step of healing. These friends knew they were on the metaphorical list forever. So after, they wouldn’t let us walk alone; they didn’t let us walk alone.
I tell this story today with the sky white with clouds and the ground wet with rain. It’s cold and quiet. It’s a day for remembering. I tell this story because I think I needed to and because I sincerely believe we are not meant to hide in our deepest pain. Even in the darkest, most confusing moments, when truly no one besides our God can understand our pain, we can invite someone in. Doing so is inviting them not just to see us vulnerable and hurt, but to be Jesus to us, to be near to the brokenhearted and the crushed in spirit. They will not do it perfectly, but if they are true and loving, they will accept the call to walk with us in the years of grieving and healing to come.