I was, at most, a casual bystander when I began to witness one of the most beautiful displays of friendship I have ever seen. Greeta and Jami had been friends since childhood and now both were pregnant with boys, due on the same day. Conversations assured the strengthening of their own bond as they planned to raise their sons together, as friends. I had not known either of them long and did not know either of them well; I was merely a witness of what was about to unfold. I met Greeta after she found out that she would, in fact, not be allowed to raise her son because of the terminal prognosis her doctors gave. He would only live for hours, if he lived at all. Her resolve was quick and ran amazingly deep; she would love him for as long as she was given. It turns out that was only 8 hours after his birth. Jami's pregnancy, on the other hand, would result in the birth of a beautiful and healthy baby boy. A drastic difference in the plans the two had been discussing, a shattering of all those fantastic fantasies of fun. A complete and total disruption of the idealic scenario they had created and longed for. Instead of walking the same path for years as they raised their children together, it seemed that a crossroads was forcing them to go different directions. Jami was getting well-organized for all of the normal things that come with bringing home a new baby, something that Greeta might certainly be envious of or understandably resentful about. Conversely, Greeta was bulldozed over with loss and was preparing for a long road of grief, something that Jami had no familiarity with and likely would want to avoid, as many might counsel her to do.
In my experience, this is where most friendships fall apart. Not because of a lack of love; these two loved each other deeply. Many relationships end when there is still significant affection left to be given and shared. Relationships like this unfortunately end because we are not skilled at being in someone else's reality when it is different from our own. They end because we don't access grace and we are not intentional when things are difficult. The majority of us prefer swimming in the warm waters of comfortable emotions and similar circumstance in order to keep our friendships intact. The difference between what Greeta and Jami had planned and what had in reality occurred seemed too drastic to put into words. Impossible, it would seem, to move through it together while remaining present in each others lives. It's often easier to allow these kind of differences to create distance and let the relationship fade into a memory with nobody to blame other than life's tragic turns. It wouldn't have been the first relationship lost at the crossroads of "I don't know what to say," and "I don't know what to do." Nobody would have blamed either of them, I'm sure. And yet, what I witnessed between these two friends has forever changed my heart and life regarding love in the differences. They figured it out so beautifully that I needed to try and put words to it.
Imagine a new mom stepping out of her elation and euphoria after childbirth just enough to go sit with her friend in massive and overwhelming grief because she just lost what you got to bring home. Jami chose to be present with Greeta in a way that honored her grief. She could have stayed home in the joy of her new nursery, holding her baby and relishing the gift of health knowing we are not promised such. Instead, she showed up for her friend in ways that nobody else could have. She showed up with a knowing of how things were supposed to have been, because she was living the reality of how things were supposed to have been. Without knowing what to do or what to say, Jami beautifully bridged the gap between gratitude and grief simply but profoundly by just being there. Present. With her friend. Later, she was brave enough through streams of tears to ask Greeta to be the primary care-giver for her son when it was time for her to return to work. An uncertain, delicate, and potentially damaging conversation that she was willing to have in order to invite her friend to share in the blessing of life. Most people avoid these difficult emotional conversations, especially when outcomes are uncertain, yet Jami took a risk and said the words. A verbal willingness to wade through the muck and the mire of pain, discomfort, and uncertainty in order to find the solid ground of friendship instead of allowing it to get lost in the unspoken and the assumed.
Imagine with me if you will a grieving mom who has just experienced the birth and death of her own son and yet cradles, asks for, and loves her friend's baby within days of her own loss. Greeta likely didn't have a lot of words, a lot of energy, or a lot of gratitude but she was present with Jami in her joy, genuinely grateful for what her friend was experiencing though it was the very thing that was so tragically taken from her. While I imagine resentment and bitterness were vying for a place in her thoughts, she was able to welcome into her home, her life, and her heart a healthy baby boy that was not her own. She embraced the reality that Jami was given what she was denied with such genuine love that it created a pathway between their hearts. She allowed herself to sit in the beauty and joy of new life with her friend when death and grief were still her companions. Present. With her friend. She somehow managed to keep resentment and bitterness away so that she too could bridge the gap and allow their friendship to grow and to continue. She not only became the primary care-giver when Jami returned to work, but she loved that baby in ways that only she was able. She loved that baby through her grief, despite her grief, and because of her grief. A love so rooted in grace that it formed an amazing bond between these two families.
I was not a witness to the details, the conversations, or the silences during the years this journey has taken. I did not see the tears or hear the words, but I have been just close enough to understand that between these two freinds exists holy ground. A space between them where there is honor for both realities, protection of both hearts, and each holds the other in the highest emotional regard in a space of absolute affection. Holy and sacred, yet tangible. There is an intentionality of love between them that is compelling. There is a respect and an inclusion that is beautiful. There is a holy grace that allows both women to exist so beautifully and so fully that neither had to give up what they were experiencing to maintain the friendship they both desired. Holy ground. Holy, because they created something beautiful from that which is so often destructive. Holy, because they chose presence in the midst of pain. Holy, because they saw past themselves just enough to embrace and honor one another. Holy, because moving between them is a love that can only be seen as the hand and the heart of God. And I have been honored to be a witness to it.