I didn’t know her but I could not forget her story. We had several mutual friends in our not-so-big town and her story spread quickly in conversations, prayer chains and between moms at play group.
Friends said her family had been especially close-knit and I knew they were active in their church and the community. But over the holiday weekend there had been a terrible car accident, and her husband and two of her four children had been killed.
As her story replayed in my thoughts over the next few months, I prayed for her and her two remaining children. I could not fathom the pain, the layers of grief, the sheer weight of her loss.
How does someone recover from such a loss, I wondered? I could only wonder — that kind of pain was completely foreign to me.
Two years passed and our family moved away to another town when my husband was offered his dream job. And as happens with these kinds of things and the passage of time, her story became a tender memory.
Until our paths crossed in the wake of my own unexpected loss.
My husband, the man who’d been my first and only date and my high school sweetheart, had died in his sleep. We had been a close-knit family, active in our church and in our community. He had been an incredible father.
Overnight, I was suddenly a widow and single mom to seven kids. I was neck deep in pain and paperwork and the perplexity of helping my children navigate this tragedy.
I had a hundred worries in those first weeks. Would we be okay? How would my kids handle this? How was I going to single parent my boys just coming of age or help my teenage daughter through the loss of her dad? What about my 4- and 6-year-olds? What did my future hold?
Her bereavement card was one of the first I received. She had handwritten a short note and included a Publix gift card.
My story had spread quickly in conversations, prayer chains and between mutual friends and out of the enormity of her grief, she had reached out to me.
Her simple kindness met my questions in ways that other cards and hugs could not. It was a small gesture that offered me huge hope.
She got it. She was a young widow. She had suffered unexpected loss and she was navigating children through tragedy and grief. Though her story was different than mine – in many ways harder and more complex — our losses created a kindred connection.
Her card and gift were a welcome gift. Welcome to the club of those who have suffered loss and are still breathing.
Her card and gift whispered that there was hope and there would be life again.
Her card and gift offered the encouragement and answers to my hundred questions that few others could.
God can use our story to strengthen another in her story. If she out of the unfathomable loss of her story could extend comfort to me in ours, we would be okay.
“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” (2 Corinthians 1:3b-4)