Something that hits our blindside when we least expect it. Something that hits so hard and cuts so deep that we think we might bleed out in a moment. Something that seeps into every crevice of our being, and its being there changes the person we become in some way or another. It leaves a forever imprint because it is, after all, a wound. Over time wounds heal, but many wounds leave scars that stay with us until we return to dust.
I was previously found guilty of categorizing tragedy to some degree, having selfishly placed our most recent tragedy among the worst types. But, thanks to time (and the grace of God) I no longer feel the need to drown myself in despondency. That’s not to say I’m fully healed. Tragedy is a process. Therefore, grief and healing are processes as well, but no tragedy is worse or less painful than another. And I suggest there isn’t a right or a wrong way to experience the grief that comes with that. We can feel as deeply as we need to, for as long as we need to. We can only work through our grief the best we know how to, and our best is enough.
Life is a constant struggle. We must feel and feel deeply, and we must strive to offer grace and patience to each other because there’s a story behind each person’s smile that we will never fully understand. These struggles are happening from as close as your neighbor to as far as the opposite side of the world and everywhere in between.
We had the privilege this past week to meet a lovely, older couple from Ireland. They came here to Perú to love on the children of New Hope. How affectionate is their love for these children! Their spirits are vibrant and their smiles are full of gladness. But there is a story behind those smiles. Earlier this year, they tragically lost their daughter to a sudden illness. Their daughter, Emily, had spent the past six years of her life dedicating months at a time to the wellbeing of New Hope Children’s Home. Emily poured her whole heart into this place and into these beautiful young people. The story is beautiful, and it’s tragic. This couple came down to love on the kids, yes, but they also came in the name of Emily. Emily had dreams for New Hope, and her dreams are very much alive still because of her parents love and dedication toward her. Not only are her dreams alive, but her spirit is very much alive at New Hope.
Last night I had the privilege of sitting around a bonfire with forty-eight Peruvian children, their house mothers, New Hope employees, volunteers, and this very lovely couple. One-by-one the children stood up and told a story about Emily. Memories from all ages were shared. Some stories made you laugh, others made you cry. (Some of us just cried the whole time.) Children as young as six stood up. They would say, “Good evening, everyone” before they began sharing their memories, and many said a blessing over Emily’s parents before they sat back down. I intently watched Emily’s parents receive these stories. With tears in their eyes and tissues in their hands, they grieved as if that night was a continuation of the memorial service. But I couldn’t help but notice the healing taking place in them as they sat listening – knowing that New Hope will always be a place where Emily will be alive, knowing they can visit whenever they want and the life of their daughter can feel as real as it ever was.
Later in the evening, I sat in on a conversation between one of the teens at the home and a leader in the home. This girl had recently found out that some bad stuff had taken place in the home of her mother’s. Her three younger siblings live there and experienced these bad things. Her younger brother put a call into the police, and the mother has been missing since. New Hope is trying to take custody of these children as always is the goal, but there is much red tape. This teen girl was a wreck all weekend, all day yesterday. She has every right to be worried about her siblings. What will happen to them if they don’t come to the home? What will it be like if they do come? What will happen if my mom returns to the house and has a strong opinion about my brother’s decision to call the police? The what-ifs go on. There are many similar stories among children at the home, but each are completely unique and none of the circumstances are easy.
As grieved as I was for her, I didn’t start trying to hide the tears until she started crying and asking, “If my siblings come here, will they get adopted?” “They have to get adopted!” “It’s okay if I’m not adopted. I just want them to have a family!” Lord, have mercy. It was absolutely heart-breaking to hear this beautiful child plead for her siblings without a care for herself. I couldn’t help but think of the relentless love God has for this world during her pleading.
The struggle really is real. Grief, too. It’s possibly the truest and most natural emotion we feel because we humans love hard. We’re capable of a lot of damage, but we love hard. And we are loved hard. And in my opinion loving hard is worth every moment of the grief that may follow.
May we stick together and lift each other up because life is hard. We need each other. Healing will come later.
“…I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Jn. 16:33
View and read the story for the above borrowed photo here. Precious.