I wrote this post a year ago, but I couldn't bring myself to publish it then. Through my warped lens of grief, I felt like blogging about the death of my dear friend would make it more real. Maybe, I hoped, if I just didn't share these words, she wouldn't be gone...
But she still was. She still is. One year ago today, she took her life.
So today, after a hard and good conversation with her husband this morning, I'm sharing these words - just as I wrote them last year with all the raw emotion intact - because I don't think grief is meant to be silent. We exalt comfort and pretend it's right and good and even godly. But? God's word is full of lament and pain and even doubt, so I think I'm in good company to say this life hurts without sugar-coating or silver-lining my words. God is glorified in the pain and not just the platitudes.
So here goes, my post written on Good Friday 2015...
I grew up Lutheran. The rhythms of liturgical seasons still flow through me, but I haven't felt that same somber feeling at Good Friday most years since joining a Baptist church.
In my youth, the notes of Ash Wednesday, Lent, and purple vestments joined with the singing of "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" to elicit a mix of grief, reverence, and expectation. Today the memorial service of one of my dearest friends is doing the same.
Oh, how I miss her.
Since her death almost a week and a half ago, I've found pockets of joy here and there but most have been bittersweet. Despite them all, Melinda is gone from this earth. I believe God's words are true in Revelation 21:4 when they promise of heaven where "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." I believe my friend is there, eternally divorced from this life's torments and brokenness. While I am glad she is fully free, I feel bound by my grief.
Today I am better able to imagine the depths of agony that day long ago held. While I know Sunday is coming, I woke fighting to see any good in Good Friday. While I know I'll see Melinda on the other side of eternity, the day seems too far away and today feels too dim without her.
So I scanned Facebook, busying my mind with anything other than my friend's memorial service later today. And I found words from my friend Hugh that resonated deep in me, and maybe they will in you too:
I know the darkness doesn't win in the end. And I don't want the darkness to win in my heart, not even today, a day on which I'm tempted to let it overshadow all that is good and light and cheer. I know Melinda wouldn't want that for me or anyone else she loved either.
As I searched through old pictures for our oldest child's school project this past week, my breath stopped for a moment with one in particular. At my daughter's baptism, my friend sits just behind - feet in the water, sunglasses on, smile radiating - cheering with me in my girl's step of faith:
It seems fitting to share, as baptism represents dying in the water and being raised to new life again. Because we can hope in the latter, we deem the former to be worth it. Today I celebrate my friend and I grieve her absence here, in a fickle dance of pain and joy, grief and hope, loss and love.
Depression is a heinous illness, and sometimes - as was the case with my friend - it can become terminal.
As much as I want to say "what if..." the reality is that she was doing all the right things with medical care and support and vulnerability, but it wasn't enough. I wish an extra measure of friendship from me or love from anyone else could have changed the story, but we're not the authors of this. We did all we could, and so did she. Please don't talk in hushed tones about the choice she made. Please. In her darkness, she couldn't see choices anymore; if she had seen another way, I know my friend well enough to know she would have chosen it. Just as someone can succumb to breast cancer despite all the best treatments and deepest will to survive, my friend succumbed to another terrible disease, one called depression.
If you are struggling, tell someone. Seek help. Find a therapist. Talk to a doctor about whether or not medication might be a good option for you. Risk trusting friends to be faithful to you, even when smiles are hard and burdens heavy.
I've done all of those things in the past year - for myself and my family, but also in honor of Melinda - and I'm better for it. If you need encouragement in taking the next step toward healing, let me know. I'm here for you.
(If you are in a similar place as my friend was and don't know what to do, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is one good option. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting "START" to 741-741. You are precious, and your life is worth fighting for.)