Right now she’s weaving in and out of unfamiliar faces, dragging a suitcase behind her. Waiting for her flight to be called. Waiting to land in the uncertainty of the weekend.
She’s trying to be brave, but the lukewarm coffee sloshes in her paper cup, reminding her how utterly alone she feels.
She thought this time would work. She thought he was getting better. But her trembling hand clamped around her plane ticket reminds her he is anything but okay, and this weekend could be the hardest one she ever steps into. She fears the possible, final goodbye, that this may be the last time she sees him alive.
She’s filled with dread. Anxiety. Unease. And more than anything she wishes she could be anywhere, anyone, than sitting in a North Carolina terminal waiting for a flight to Indiana, where anything, at any time, could go horribly wrong.
She’s trying to be brave, but her strength is fading. She feels mentally, emotionally, and spiritually dead. Her body is drained. Her soul is spent. She may have only one suitcase with her today, but her heart has been carrying more luggage than her heart was ever meant to bear.
/ / /
I picked up the moment her name lit up my phone. “Hi, how are you?”
She broke. “I haven’t even started talking and I’m already crying.”
I felt the weight as she inhaled. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know what this weekend is going to look like, but I’m so scared and it’s so hard. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to say and I really need to just show him how much I love him and care about him, but right now he’s just sitting at home by himself and I’m afraid nothing’s going to help at this point.”
I still don’t know how to respond to that. I fumbled with my words. I tried to find things to say that would be encouraging. Something for her to grasp onto. But I couldn’t spew a blog post. She didn’t need to hear “it’s okay to not be okay”. She didn’t need “you need to do this and don’t do this”; honestly who was I to even give advice in this situation?
I did the only thing I knew how to do. I met her where she was at.
And where she was at was a noisy airport terminal. Minutes from boarding her plane. A suitcase of clothes and even more heart-baggage in the next seat over. A lukewarm cup of coffee sloshing in a paper cup.
“I just want to be brave, and I need to be brave when I get there but I’m so scared and I don’t think I can do this.”
I stopped her, tears welling in my eyes. “Do you realize that’s what brave means?” I was flooded with the reminder of where I was even six months ago, when the word gained its significance to me. “Brave means enduring fearlessly. It means seeing your fear, feeling it, carrying it, and pushing through it anyway, struggling to hope, daring to hope, that this will get better and that you and he will survive.”
“Yeah,” she whispered.
“I don’t think you realize how brave you’ve been the last few weeks alone,” I continued. “What you’re doing now, I don’t know anyone who could handle doing what you’re about to do. I know you feel like you need more brave. But in this moment, you are the bravest person I know.”
/ / /
I don’t remember life without her. The story goes that our parents knew each other before we were born. We were inseparable for thirteen years. And then she moved, and we didn’t talk for a really long time. Off and on we’d chat, but things shifted in December.
And that conversation is still one of the best conversations I’ve had to date. She’s the reason I’m learning to own my brave.
You’re teaching others how to be brave just by being brave yourself. You keep bringing the truth into the world like nobody’s business, and it opens up the doors for other people to tell their truth too.
It’s been tattooed on my soul for six months and I’m finally starting to see the fruit of being brave.
/ / /
I still watch Peter Pan and remember play-pretending with her at my house. My favorite Disney princess movie to date is Alice in Wonderland. I’m almost twenty and I still get chills when I hear “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. All of these things are connected to her because they were our favorites together.
But Annie is different. When I think of Annie, I don’t really remember a specific memory as much as I do my friend’s face. I just remember her. I remember watching a video of her singing “Tomorrow”, her voice ringing through the auditorium. I remember her hair staying red for the longest time because of the hair dye.
What seven-year-old-version her could not understand, however, is how much she owns that song now and doesn’t even realize it. She may have belted it in an auditorium at one point, but her weary soul still beats its rhythm.
The sun will come out tomorrow.
So you gotta hang on till tomorrow.
You’re only a day away.
/ / /
On Mondays we talk.
Usually I’m driving to Bible study, so I call her and we talk the whole way there.
I call it car church.
We’ve started meeting each other where we’re at and ministering to each other’s needs. We talk about frustrations. Boys. Social media. Depression. Our topics range from darkest secrets and “the churches we were raised in” to memories only we share from early years.
We talk a lot about loss. A lot about heartache and mourning people who are still alive and the ghosts they leave behind.
Sometimes there’s crying.
Sometimes there’s a lot of laughter (I may or may not have almost driven off the road laughing so hard).
I’m uncertain about a lot of things, but one thing is for certain :: her presence is not unseen. Her impact is not forgotten. Her openness to listen, her grace to understand, her soul that knows deep hurt, are the greatest reasons why I keep taking steps in brave. She has a lot of hard days, and we talk about those hard days when you don’t want to get out of bed and are unmotivated to do everything. But she talks about the grace we must give ourselves to have bad days, and to know that there will be a good day waiting for us soon.
That the sun will come out tomorrow.
Love is not a victory march; it’s a cold and broken hallelujah. And she is walking that verse inch by inch by tiny inch. She may feel inadequate to love this person where he is at. But she is far from it.
She is far from inadequacy. She is far from defeat. She may be cold and broken, but she marches on.
And I’m more proud of her, to be her friend, to watch her fight and fight for, with, and alongside her, than she’ll ever know.
She is the bravest soul I know. And I hope she knows she is covered in more grace and love than she could ever fathom.
Here is to breathing in hope and exhaling fear. Here’s to putting our breaths on repeat, until we believe again. Believe that we are worth fighting for. Believe that this life is worth living.
/ / /