Tomorrow I'm saying goodbye to a friend.
It seems surreal. I just can't wrap my head around the fact that she is gone. We've been friends for almost 20 years. We've seen our kids grow up together. We volunteered and laughed together. We had a lot of lunches together. And for at least a thousand reasons, I can't understand why this happened to her. A lot of people are grieving, and we will be for a long time.
There are never good words to say, or things to do, when someone you love dies. The reality is that nothing can take away the breathtaking brutality of death.
In the musical Hamilton, there is a beautiful song called "It's Quiet Uptown." The lyrics tell the story of Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza mourning the death of their son Philip. The song was described by one critic as "devastatingly beautiful." But the story behind the lyrics is even more so. In the book Hamilton: The Revolution, it is noted that Lin Manuel Miranda was having trouble writing the lyrics for a song describing so much loss. "One day he realized that his inability to grasp the enormity of...[the] loss wasn't a barrier to writing the song; it was the song." (251-252) Around this same time, friends and colleagues of the Hamilton team lost their 16 year old son. Just hours later, Miranda sent the couple a MP3 of the song, which was about to go into production but hadn't been released yet. “There is nothing you can say,” Mr. Miranda recalled thinking. “And yet, I had a song about this. So I wrote to him saying, ‘If this is useful, then lean on it, and, if not, delete this email.’” (For credit on this quote and more of this story, please click here.)
The song states well, "There are moments that the words don't reach, there is suffering too terrible to name."
For those who are grieving, there are not many - or any - words that offer comfort. The recognition that there are no words to capture such brokenness and despair leaves us hollow - but truthful.
So, we acknowledge that all that is left after that is to be present, to remember, to bear witness to the life of a person that was loved beyond words. To show up humbly however you can, or sometimes to give space to let grief unfold. It is a gentle and brutal riding of the waves - often not knowing if you can ever get it right - or if there even is a "right way." Our only hope is to try to come along beside others that grieve with us, and as Miranda says so well, just to be quiet together.
One of my favorite quotes, that stays on my Instagram bio, is by Viola Davis, "Once your life is done, the only thing that's left behind is how much you influenced the world & impacted a life." My life was impacted by my friend, as were many others, and she will missed terribly.
May you make an impact on the lives of others with the time you have. May you reach out to someone you know who is grieving today. May you walk alongside those who feel alone. And may you feel wrapped in love through your own sorrow, whatever it may be.
for Sarah. 1972-2022