Love Showed Up: Best Friends Know Better

Leigh Kramer is a longtime blog-friend. Her writing, compassion and zest for life never cease to astound me any time we cross (digital) paths. I hope you enjoy and resonate with her story today, that it ignites gratitude and bittersweet memories in your heart as it did mine. 7023751359

I don’t remember if she picked me up or if we met at the restaurant. I do remember putting up a fuss at first. I wanted to stay in my cave. It was cozy, didn’t require energy, and my tears could arrive as they pleased.

But best friends often know better than we do. Erin told me we were going out for dinner, which is how I found myself sitting on the patio of one of my favorite Mexican restaurants a couple of weeks after my grandmother died.

I see us there perfectly but I have no idea what we talked about or whether I had a margarita that night. Grief’s blur covers almost all my memories from that time. I know we went to dinner. I know it was good for me. I know I never would have realized that apart from Erin’s insistence.

I had lost other loved ones, throughout my life really. Losing Grandma the summer of 2007 rocked me to my core. We were close and I was involved in her care during her last weeks. Our family changed dramatically in the course of four months. Or a little less than a year, depending on where we start the story. My great-aunt was on hospice for about 10 months. Grandma was a valiant caregiver but family had to step up more and more as her own health troubles began. In the week after my great-aunt died, Grandma received her own terminal diagnosis. She started on hospice and died almost two months later to the day.

I worked for that same hospice as a social worker. I picked the team for these two women I held dear. I walked alongside and pitched in as much as I could, ever mindful I was a great-niece, a granddaughter. After they died, I tried to resume the old routines but found I couldn’t.

There was no escaping my grief at work. I would do my best to make it through each day, stuffing down tears as families walked down the same path I’d just traveled. When the work day ended, I’d collapse on to the couch in my living room and crack open a book. Book after book after book. Not even good books. I turned to Christian fiction. While I insist good Christian fiction exists (it does!), it is not always easy to find and the series I turned toward in those days would not qualify as “good.” Now it wasn’t Amish fiction or the drivel I had regularly sold while working at The Christian Bookstore- I still had some standards- but it was sure to have easily solvable crises and happy endings. I needed predictability in the midst of my fallen world.

Before this loss, I was the quintessential social butterfly. Afterward, I stopped planning parties and turned down invitations. The energy that had powered me through the last few months deflated suddenly and quickly. I had nothing left to give and I didn’t know how to receive. Books required little of me. I could lose myself in the pages.

Erin let me be. At first. But when Erin decides something, it’s going to happen. We were going to dinner. She ignored my excuses. She told me to decide when and where.

It was a bright moment of normalcy. I’m sure the conversation meandered through all manner of topics because that’s how our conversations go. I’m sure she asked how I was doing- how I was really doing- because Erin is compassionate and caring. I’m sure she also let me decide how much I wanted to talk about the loss, for the same reasons.

I needed to stow the books away for one night. I could return to my grief cave the next day. The dinner was a line in the sand, not forcing me to change but opening my eyes to life again. In the weeks and months that followed, I’d start picking better books and re-engaging with my closest friends. The loss changed me more than I realized possible and set down a map for how I would navigate future loss.

Erin showed up in ways big and small during that time, as did other friends and colleagues. I didn’t need listening ears per se but I needed people to draw near when I didn’t have the strength to reach out. When I didn’t have words for what I needed.

Thank God they showed up.

Bio picture Bio: Leigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee with only fried pickles for comfort, quit steady job as a social worker to chase that dream of writing at last, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. She is a contributor at A Deeper Story. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at LeighKramer.com and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh.

 

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  • Daniel McDonald

    Thank you Leigh for telling this. If we live long enough we’ll suffer such a loss and I think one of the best ways to help another heal is for a story that someone else suffered such a loss too, and we don’t feel quite so alone. The friends are such a help and sometimes we hate them around and sometimes want to blame them for not being there all at the same time, so we surely ought to honor those friends that are there in such hurting times. I hope your words will speak to those who come to this page facing their loss so painful. One thing I have told people grieving over another is to remember one thing you loved about them and see how you might take a part of that and make it yours to give to others, so we will carry a bit of them with us always.

    • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

      As hard as losing my Grandma was, so many people told me my work as a hospice social worker honored her legacy. She never worked for hospice, nor was she a social worker but she cared for several loved ones at the end of their lives. In some ways, it was a comfort to think about this, as hard as work was during that time. And in other ways, I needed people to just sit with me and let me be. That’s probably why I was so grateful for Erin and her impeccable timing.

      • Daniel McDonald

        Thanks, I love that what you write as many times as I have seen it is uplifting. Many blessings to you and to Penny for having you post this, and to your friend.

  • pastordt

    This is such rich story-telling, Leigh. What a hard year that was! We were having one almost as hard in our family circle, too – and those are never easy. I turned to Jane Austen during that year and the one after, to both movies and books. Somehow, reading (or seeing) an intricate romance, where things turn out okay in the end, was exactly what I needed just to keep putting one foot in front of the others. So I get this. Thanks for hosting her, Leanne.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      I know I so agree with Leigh! I turned to “How i met your Mother” sitcom… not NEARLY as classy as Austen but the humor and silliness took my mind off my loss a few years back.

      • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

        I’m sure I watched a ton of TV during those days and weeks, too. I’m equal opportunity when it comes to “mind numbing.” 😉

    • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

      Thank you, Diana! So strange 2007 was a hard year for both of us. I’m glad I’m not the only one who turns to literature in times of trouble!

  • Mark Allman

    I think we don’t often remember what was said but we always remember who showed up. I would imagine sometimes words would not be needed at all; just the other person showing up and hanging out conveying that you mean so much to them that they are willing to just hang around you because they love you. No words needed just their presence.

    • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

      Definitely agree, Mark. The people who show up in the midst of difficult circumstances mean so much and the people who are scarce- well, it changes the relationship.

  • andrea frazer

    I loved this also. I seem to be going through a similar time and it’s lovely to know there is light at the end of the tunnel. http://www.happilytickedoff.com

    • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

      Thanks for letting me know this resonated with you, Andrea.

  • Nicole A. Joshua

    Thank you Leigh. These memories are so beautifully articulated. I recognize the grief cave, and your post reminds me of friends who dragged me out when strength failed me. Your post gives me a space to remember, to be grateful, and to appreciate my friends who showed up for me.

    • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

      Thank you, friend. Glad you had friends who drew near when you most needed them.

  • http://littledidsheknow.net/ Cara Strickland

    Thank you for sharing this, Leigh. It’s a hard story, I know, but it gives me a bit more insight into you.

  • http://katiemurchisonross.blogspot.com/ Katie

    Leigh, thanks so much for sharing this story. I thought something was wrong with me after my grandma died, like maybe I cared too much–because 88-year-olds die and I thought I should be okay with it. But I just missed her so much. I remember feeling like I had no social energy, and very little patience for small talk. I just wanted to write, and play the piano–something I had shared with her. Thank goodness for friends who walk with us in our grief.

    • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

      When we love someone, I don’t think we’re ever ready for them to leave us. Having a close relationship with Grandma made the loss that much harder. Yes, she had a good “long” life, on the one hand, but for our family, it wasn’t long enough. Some of my friends didn’t get that because they weren’t close to their grandparents or their grandparents died when my friends were little. It made me appreciate my more understanding friends that much more.

      • Mark Allman

        They don’t ever really leave us do they Leigh? We never really get over those we love either and that is the way it should be.