I was numb, crying, thinking of my boys and how broken hearted they would be about this news. Their little precious souls are too young to have to face this cold, harsh, part of life. Can I protect them from this for a little while longer? From the sting that life can give unexpectedly and unapologetically? As I drove out into the beautiful Oklahoma countryside, I allowed myself to let it out, hoping I could put on my strong face in time to meet my youngest son Levi at Woolaroc for his end-of-year field trip.
Just hours before I was calculating every meal and everything going into my body. No coffee, no wine, even my favorite, chocolate, had not been appealing to me. It was one moment at a time as, that was all my mind and body could do trying not to throw up and trying not to induce heartburn!
Just days before it was parties and celebration, new clothes to fit my growing body and ginger crews and drops to soothe my nauseous stomach. Just days before it was “congratulations that heart is beating” and a positive visit.
I pulled into Woolaroc wiping the tears and drips from my nose. “$10 please”, I handed my payment she came back and said “Have a nice day!”
Have a nice day, a nice day… I don’t think this day could be nice. This day had been cruel, unjust and fierce, this day was breaking my heart. If she only knew what was happening behind this slow polite greet-a-stranger- half smile and my Visa card. If she knew the news I was just given, she definitely would not say “have a nice day.” So many other things would need to be said and expressed, but a nice day would not be one of them.
It made me think how many other people have been in my shoes? How many times had someone come across my path and the news life just delivered was so painful, yet they had to keep going. And the co-workers, the store clerk, the friends, the children, everyone around has no idea what they are carrying inside.
I had recently experienced a day similar when I received a call that my dearest friend’s husband passed suddenly and tragically. I had just left my boys basketball game. I was sitting in front of a Mexican restaurant where I was supposed to go and eat lunch with one of my besties and our 6 boys. How do I do this? I was in shock and couldn’t think of anything but getting to my dear friends’ side in this moment. I told my husband and we stoically walked in to eat our lunch. I did my best, but maybe realizing this wasn’t a moment to try and stuff emotions down, my husband leaned over and whispered to me, “why don’t you go ahead and share, so you are not carrying this on your own.” I shared the news I had just received, and we cried together. And together we carried the burden of sorrow the day had so astonishingly just thrown at us. The burden required the strength of more than one.
I drove the long 2 miles from the Woolaroc entrance to the museum and hit a spot where all the sudden I had cell service and ding, ding, ring, ring. Text messages and my phone ringing, my dad calling me. My signal only lasted long enough for my daddy to tell me he loved me and wished he could hug me. I was able to find a spot to quickly text everyone and let them know I had to run straight away to my Levi’s field trip and was putting on my strong face.
I caught up to Levi and as always with hugs and I love you’s, even in front of his friends, he came excitedly to me, grabbing my hand, ready to show me all the treasures he had found. His teacher asked me “how are you?” And I dopped my head a bit and said, “I’m okay.” We made our way through the museum and out to the picnic tables for lunch. Little ones buzzed, jumped, laughed and played everywhere. I could hear Larry’s words in my head “maybe you should share, so you are not carrying this alone.”
Levi had run off to play and just his teacher and I sat at the table. I scooted towards her and said, “I think Levi may have told you that I am pregnant?” She smiled and told me actually your oldest son did. I told her, “well I just came from a doctor appointment and the baby’s heart is not beating.” Without saying a word or hesitation, she wrapped her arm around me and pulled me toward her. I began to cry. I told her “this is really fresh; I just left the doctor and came straight here.” She groaned with me, listened, had gentle words, and let me share. She freed me and helped lift the burden off my shoulders that I was carrying in a vast crowd, alone.
The experience that day made an imprint. It solidified in me all the cute little sayings we see on Instagram or Pinterest. “Be kind to everyone you meet because you don’t know what battle they are fighting.” Or “Behind every face is an unseen drama.” You know, cute little stuff like that. This day solidified in me, that oh my word, behind that polite smile-at-a-stranger greeting, there can be a raging storm! It reminded me that pain does not discriminate! I cannot contain it or shield it away from my little boys. It will come after them, just like it has me. It is hiding behind every corner and every face. It reminded me again of our shared humanity and to be so gentle to others as I interact for, they might be the one on the other side of my “Have a nice day,” when a “nice” day is not what this day has delt.
It reminded me again of why it is so important to carry each other’s burdens and how somethings are never meant to be carried alone. It reminded me of how important it is to just show up sometimes in big or small ways. Phone calls, texts, flowers on the doorstep, chocolate bars, a box of bakery treats for me and the boys, a self-care kit, the love came flooding in, and this is exactly the way it should be! This is exactly the way life should work. When you are in need your community is there to support and lift you up. And when your brother or sister is in need you do the same for them. Depression, anxiety, rampant mental health issues are a direct result of HOW WE LIVE. And most of us live lonely. Lonely is a recipe for disaster.
We all say we want it, community, friends, to do life together, but it cost you something. If we want friends that will show up for us, care for us, support us, give of themselves to us, and help carry the weight of life, then we must be carrying other’s burdens. Not as a cute saying, but as a way of life. Where we inconvenience ourselves, sacrifice, cry, have sleepless nights, babysit, give, listen, show up and ensure that those around us thrive. That kind of love, this kind of community, could change everything. This kind of living might actually be the WAY. The way out of depression, the way out of loneliness, the way out of isolation, the way to love, the way to community, the way to truly live and find joy, rest, and serenity. What if this is the way that leads to everlasting life, where you experience a taste of the divine and the kingdom of heaven? My prayer for you is that you might “ have a great day,” not because of the circumstances of your day but because of the people around you that show up so you can taste the divine.