As dark as the journey has been, months following months, I know I haven’t walked alone for a single day. All along the dismal path, through a disastrous biopsy and subsequent “Stage 0” breast cancer diagnosis and surgery, through the volcanically tumultuous re-entry into family life of Youngest Mystery, through skyrocketing anxiety and sleepless nights, through relationship messes and deep pain, little signs and trail markers have emerged through the fog, reminding me, “You are not alone.”
I’d read a text from a faithful friend, sometimes with a prayer embedded right into the text, other times just the words, “I’m praying.”
One sweet young(er) friend came and prepared a feast of butternut bisque, a dish I love and was hungry for in the middle of an eating slump. Those individual servings waited in my freezer like unopened mail. So much delicious anticipation.
I’d stumble upon an unexpectedly deep conversation with an acquaintance in a doctor’s office.
I’d hold (another) card that said, “I care about you.”
Once a sweet older woman at church simply hugged me and gave me a soft kiss on the cheek.
People I’d been carrying in my prayers were suddenly carrying me, and checking in with me, and noticing my progress or pain with compassion and-more prayers.
I told my Sunday school class that I was mighty tired of being the neediest person in the room, but they didn’t seem to be tired of me. They just kept caring and asking and praying and listening for the prompts that resulted in food on the table when my family needed to eat when I couldn’t taste a thing.
“This was the verse I prayed for you this morning,” was a favorite message because it was hard to find those verses on the darkest days. I copied them into my journal word for word; I underlined, highlighted, and breathed them into prayers of my own.
Every day, caring people helped me to tie survival knots in the thin rope to which I was clinging. My grip would slip, and then it would happen again. I know they don’t all see themselves this way, but I think of them as “the sent ones.” To sit with someone when they are sobbing takes a certain courage, a certain self-restraint, a certain kindness that I thought was rare in the world. I was wrong.
"Why is she sending me this," I would wonder. I'd listen. Meh. But three days later, how I needed it.
Or, “this one really spoke to me,” and then a link from the other Amy. (How is it that I have two music loving friends named Amy who have never met?) I never asked them to please send me songs that might cut through the fog, the pain, the fog, the pain. But that's what happened.
Oh. Those songs.
I listened and listened and listened.
I memorized the words. I sat and sobbed. I wrote the lyrics line by line more than once in my messy but real journal.
I sang them into the darkness, the music helping me to declare truth that I couldn’t feel.
And when I couldn’t think to pray, I could sing those songs and say, “This, Jesus.”
Somewhere along the way, I began to wonder about something. While it’s true, I’ve been feeling like I’m the neediest person in the room, (any room), one of my friend’s challenged me: “Maybe you’re just the most honest.” So, maybe I’m not the only one.
And if that’s true, maybe other people would benefit from that growing list of songs. (Ah, the list.)
In the coming days, I'll try to post them here, song after song, line after line, songs that carried/are carrying me through the hardest season of my life, so far.
Just in case I’m not the only one.
Let's start with this one...