This picture took place seven months ago as we said goodbye to our dear Ben. And every time I look at this picture and remember that day, it still gives me chills. It was a powerful moment that is hard to put into words (yet I try) but was captured by the lens of a phone camera.
Most of the faces are hard to see because we were praying and commending our friend to God’s care. My friend Bryant; Ben’s best friend has his hand on Ben’s urn. Our seminary professor who led the commendation is standing near Bryant. To my left is Ben’s wife Mara who is holding their daughter Elizabeth. There are so many friends and family who are standing in that circle. A cloud of witnesses all linked back to our beloved Ben.
Tears kept falling from my face as we said goodbye. I remember looking around the sanctuary and seeing others tears falling too. I knew that this grief was not being held alone. But I also was trying to be so strong. In fact, my friend Carrie turned to me at one point and said, “You’re being so strong.” I looked at her and simply said, “Im trying.” I knew that I needed to be strong for Mara, for Elizabeth, for Ben’s parents, for Ben’s siblings, for all those that loved Ben. It was not easy, but somehow God surrounded me and gave me the strength I needed that day.
After the funeral, we headed over to a local brewery/bar that opened up just for us. In that brewery, the table was set and the wine was poured as we communed together. Voices raised as we sang some of Ben’s favorite hymns–beer and hymns; a fitting tribute for our friend. I can still hear that moving rendition of Canticle of the Turning permeating the air. Stories were shared as we remembered our friend.
In the midst of our grief, laughter and joy found their way to the surface. “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).”
In that brewery, I was surrounded by many friends, but also some acquaintances. But I left that brewery that afternoon knowing these people were all now my friends too because together we loved and were loved by our friend. Together, we had held one another in our grief. Together, we had celebrated Ben’s life. Together, we will continue to share stories of Ben with his daughter. We will make sure she knows who her dad is and how much he loved her and her mom.
If grief has taught me anything, it is that grief is never meant to be done alone. It is meant to be shared together. When grief causes me to doubt, others believe for me until I can believe for myself again. When grief prevents me from turning to God and praying because I can’t find the words, others pray for me. And when I can’t sing because the grief is too deep, others sing for me until I can find my voice again.
And for that, I’m so grateful! Because when Elizabeth starts Kindergarten, we will need to be there for Mara as she walks into that school alone. There will be so many times when we will need to believe, pray and sing for each other when grief rears its head in the midst of life’s joys and sorrows.
Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories.