It’s crazy how places will trigger memories. For me, it’s the rim of the bathtub in the girls’ bathroom. For some reason that’s where the substantive stuff of my life seems to happen. It’s where Jane and I sit in the steam when she’s sick. It’s where Reese and I sat and sang and rocked in between bouts of throwing up one night. And it’s where I sat – frozen, for three hours this very night a few years ago when the text came. At the time I thought it was because it was the closest place to sit down, but now I wonder if that narrow ledge was where I sat because it was the place where my important things happen — my safe haven of sorts.
January 17th is indelibly etched in my mind as the day I realized that I don’t actually live in the bubble that I thought I had carefully constructed for myself over the years since my mother’s death. Find the stable guy, have the stable kids, live in the stable neighborhood, go to the stable church, make the stable friendships — live the stable life. Except that if you can get a text at 11pm telling you that your sister friend’s husband was involved in a horrible wreck and did not survive, there is not one single thing stable about that life at all. There is just the realization that there are no walls capable of keeping the bad out — that it finds a way in no matter how safe you think you are. Not because it’s scary, but because it’s necessary — without the bad, there can be no good. And while it was a terrifying realization, it shook me out of the lies I was telling myself – that if I did the right things that life would be smooth. Clear skies. Smooth sailing.
What a silly girl I was.
What happened on the 17th changed my sister’s life in ways I cannot begin to imagine. It also changed me. I like to think for the better. Beauty from ashes, isn’t that the saying? I learned how to be a better friend to her. I learned that you can take nothing for granted, ever. I learned how deeply interconnected women can be as friends and that when one hurts, the herd comes running to surround her. I learned that communities will rally in ways that you could never predict. I learned that my sister is strong. And weak. And vulnerable. And beautiful. I learned to be inspired by her resilience and by her raw emotion and gut-wrenching honesty. I was reminded that life is precious. I was reminded that we can do hard things. And I learned that the bubble is a lie.
I think as Christians we can insulate ourselves like that sometimes. We can forget that even though you do all the things — God’s plan was never about your bubble. It was never about your insulation. It was about your growth. Your understanding. Your hurt and fear and pain and grief and your willingness to rage and then be still. To find the good after the storm. To find the strength that comes from letting go.
Tonight, as I put away towels and walk by that ledge I am reminded of that night. That pain. That disbelief. That grief. Of my sister and the burdens she carries every day. Of the deep gratitude I feel for being allowed a friendship with her. Of that growth in understanding. And I am grateful for the lessons, and for the unassailable fact that NOTHING IS WASTED. Ever.
Beauty from ashes — on the edge of a bathtub.