When my charismatic, fun-loving friend from college invited me to be in her wedding, wild horses couldn’t have kept me away, despite the trip across the continent to get there. Years later, when I married, she brought her husband and kids to visit us. And thus began a series of cross-country trips, allowing us to maintain our friendship.
But toddlers turn to teens, and the pace of life quickens with each passing year, and those sweet vacations ended. In what seemed no time, 10 years had passed. One afternoon, I called to tell her I was flying into her town and wanted to see her. I asked how she was doing, and in a shaking voice she replied, “Oh, hon. Not well.”
Six months earlier, her 19-year-old son, suffering from deep depression, had taken his own life. She hadn’t contacted me. How do you call your old friend to say, “Oh, by the way, my son committed suicide”?
I had called hoping to reconnect. I had no idea the heart I would be reconnecting to was broken.
When I arrived, I had the luxury of spending several days with her. I asked her to tell me about her son.
She brought out the video of the funeral, and a movie the family had edited together, made from footage taken throughout her son’s life.
We spent hours watching these and crying together. I grieved the loss of not having known him better. I mourned the pain that my friend had endured. She gave way to the luxury of pouring out her heart, without trying to act like she was doing better than she was, six months after his death.
Wiping her swollen eyes, she said, “I want people to remember that he was SO MUCH MORE than the way that he chose to end his life!”
After I left, she told me she felt like she had been visited by an angel from heaven. But any of us who gives the gift of listening, who allows a broken heart to feel what it feels, out loud, and unmasked, really can be an angel.
What ARE angels, but ministering spirits?
So each of us can be an angel, if only we are willing to give someone the gift of allowing them to tell their story.
We don’t have to rush in with the answers, or “say the right thing.”
I had no answers to give her.
But if “all” we can do is listen? Listening IS “saying” the right thing.
If “all” we can do is bear witness to someone’s pain, then that is a gift indeed.
And we ourselves become angels, unaware.
— Susan Williams
Susan Williams is the author of the blog *That* Susan Williams, where she writes about food, faith and fun. She is a born storyteller, who loves to share her observations about life. Her blog name was chosen when she realized that she was #27 of more than 50 different Susan Williams in her insurance system. She is also the food columnist for a national emagazine, Midlife Boulevard. Stop by and visit *That* Susan Williams when you need a dynamite recipe, or a little encouragement. Because she’s that kind of friend. She’s that Susan Williams.